Stations West, by Allison Amend

AmendI just finished Allison Amend’s novel, “Stations West,” which came out from LSU Press not many days ago. I think it’s a testament to its compulsive readability that I finished it as quickly as I did, what with the papers sitting there, ungraded, on the table. Calling to me. Beckoning. Saying: Grade me, Pauls. Grade me.

The story is interesting and unique: The trials of a family of Jewish pioneers in Oklahoma (the only state in the union I haven’t been to, not that you asked). I remember reading this story eight years ago in One Story Magazine. Or rather, I remember reading the short story that was expanded out into this novel. That was Issue #13 — in the very first days of Hannah Tinti and Maribeth Batcha’s little magazine, One Story. It’s almost impossible to believe that a decade has passed, but it has — and One Story is still publishing and wildly acclaimed (but could use your support! click here!). They just mailed Issue #133!

The fact that Amend kept writing this book, through all those years of revision, is a testament to the courage of the writer, who faces the page every day and still perseveres — despite the fact that the goal is not ever clearly in sight. I love the story behind the genesis of the novel; it’s both sad and funny and idiosyncratic. Back in Tulsa for her grandfather’s funeral, Amend stumbled across the book, “The Jews of Oklahoma,” among his papers. She read the thin volume, captivated. And thus the idea of the historical novel was born.

The book is funny, harrowing, and sad. Amend’s a great writer, as fans of her short fiction know. Her debut novel is not a departure from this, at all. Visit your local, independent bookseller and pick it up today!

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