Everlasting takes place in rural and small town Oklahoma, beginning in 1947 and ending in the 1970s. Vada Ross Priddy is a character who will take up residence in the readers’ hearts and minds, carrying them along on her journey toward understanding of herself and her world.
Everlasting was selected as a finalist for the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award.
It ain’t right. It ain’t!” Addy’s ragged whisper was loud as thunder and soft as dew. “I’ll come for you, Vada, soon as I can. We’ll go to Tulsa, even Oklahoma City, and they won’t never find us.”
Addy had been in an almost uncontrollable state since the Sunday morning church service three days before when Mama had stood and announced before God and the whole congregation Vada’s impending marriage to Mr. Harmon Priddy of Kellyville. Some church folk had looked at Vada with pity and at Mama with something akin to disgust, but even Vada had to admit those were the ones Mama call Nosy Parkers and Busybodies. Papa just sat still, his eyes away off on something Vada couldn’t see.
Johnsie and Roxanne had become skittish and whiny the way they did when Mama and Papa fought, and Roxanne clung to Vada with uncommon desperation, refusing to allow anyone else to feed or comfort her.
Only Vada was resigned. Frightened, unable to sleep, but resigned. She knew Johnsie and even Roxanne would do all right as long as they had Addy to look out for them, and Addy would make it, too. What about me? Vada wanted to cry out, for as welcome as a world without Mama might be, she would also be beyond Papa’s protection and Addy’s love, and right then those seemed like the only useful things in the world.
Don’t do no good to fight after you done lost. That was how she looked at it, but now here was Addy in her face, promising things she couldn’t bring to pass. “Don’t talk crazy.” She was amazed at how her hands could push Addy away when all she really wanted to do was hold onto her and everything that was familiar, even Mama. The familiar was bound to hurt sometimes, but was still yet better than the unknown, where she was now headed. But it ain’t gonna kill me. It sure ain’t. She drew a shaky breath and went to Harmon Priddy where he stood by his ’30 model Chrysler.
I’m ready,” she said, looking at her feet. Her carpetbag had been loaded earlier, and it sat in the back seat at the feet of Mr. Priddy’s three starey-eyed children. Mr. Priddy–Harmon–had named them off to her earlier–Nelda, Riley, and Dempsey–but they could’ve been Winken, Blinken, and Nod for all she cared. She glanced at them, taking in the pasty-faced girl’s eyes, so hard and dark they could be mistaken for a couple of Johnsie’s playing marbles; the middle boy, ignoring her as determinedly as his sister stared at her; and the littlest one, who would have been cute taffy colored hair and light hazel eyes, if he hadn’t been picking his nose, inspecting his find, then putting it in his mouth. Vada turned away, revolted. That’s worse than having worms.
Mama stretched her mouth into a smile. “We’re shore honored to have you in the family, Harmon. Shore enough.” She preened and squirmed in her Sunday dress as if she, and not Vada, had stood in front of the preacher and sold her future to a man she hardly knew, a man twenty years her senior with backlit eyes and hands as big as skillets.
But it wasn’t. It wasn’t her, it was Vada, and she was numb from it, clear to her toes. She let Harmon guide her from the porch, his big hand rough on her elbow, but at the bottom of the porch steps, she turned back for one more look at those she was leaving behind. Somehow she knew that long years later, the picture would still be engraved on her mind: Johnsie swinging from the rickety porch railing; Addy, face shiny with tears, holding Roxanne on her hip; Roxanne sobbing, still reaching for the sister whose leaving she was too little to understand and too big to accept easily; Mama’s back as she disappeared through the crooked screen door; and last, but more achingly vivid, more lost to her than any of the others, Papa. As he raised a hand in farewell, he knocked from railing to porch the fading bunch of wildflowers that hours earlier had served as Vada’s wedding bouquet. He retrieved it and offered it to her as she met his gaze through a mist of tears, but she turned her back on him and allowed Harmon Priddy to lead her to the waiting car.
She slipped silently into the front seat, feeling like she didn’t even need the door open, because she was air and could have passed right through that car itself. When she was settled in, she looked in the side mirror and caught sight of Addy, beautiful, chestnut-haired Addy, face perfect even when blotched from crying. Vada stared hard at her sister’s image in the mirror as they drove away, at the bare feet in the dirt, the faded dress. When it was almost too late, she turned to wave, waved with all her might like she was never going to see any of them again. When she faced the front once more, she felt a fat tear trace her cheek and drop onto the front of her pink and white flowered dress, the only new dress she remembered ever having. She wiped her eyes with the heels of her hands, but more tears welled up and spilled down her face, more tears than she thought were in the world. At the feeling of a light touch on her shoulder, she looked over to see Mr. Priddy–Harmon. Harmon, my husband–offer her a big handkerchief. She took it, clutched it tightly. At least it was something, some little something, to keep between her and the unknown.
It is exciting to discover a brilliant talent in the literary void. Now comes Carol Johnson with captivating characters guaranteed to become a part of your psyche. EVERLASTING is a masterpiece.”
Carol Johnson has created an exquisitely real character to express her keen observation of humanity. EVERLASTING will smack you right in the heart.”
Among the many delights to be found in this warm-hearted, graceful novel is its authenticity of language, era, place. Vada Priddy is a veritable mid-twentieth century Everywoman, and Carol Johnson has drawn her with precision, lyricism, a faultless ear for the vernacular – and a great big helping of Oklahoma wit. EVERLASTING is a treasure of a novel, reminding us how hard it is to live sometimes, how good it is to love, and how decent, finally, people really are.”
My mother used to tell me stories about her childhood in Oklahoma, of the good times and the bad. Stories I’d almost forgotten until I read Carol Johnson’s slice-of-life novel — ‘Everlasting.’
Bravo to Johnson whose beautiful novel reminds us that it’s not just the wild flowers that are everlasting. ‘It’s us, too . . . No matter what it’s called, whether it’s the soul or spirit, the work of God or some other mysterious power, a part of us lives on, from everlasting to everlasting,’ and deep down, people are genuinely good.”
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