List of Books with Plot Summaries
SEPARATE STAR (1944)
Separate Star, a career novel for aspiring teachers, was Erdman's first book-length work. It received favorable reviews and garnered considerable attention in the education world. Gail Warren, an idealistic new teacher fresh out of college, accepts a position in a small school with a number of problems. The story follows Gail as she resolves each problem and makes a real difference in the lives of the people of the community.
FAIR IS THE MORNING (1945)
Fair is the Morning, a companion book to Separate Star, follows Connie Thurman, Gail Warren's roommate, during her first year of teaching. Connie accepts employment in a rural school and faces a set of problems different from those Gail faced. The Child Study Association, a national organization, selected this book as one of the outstanding works of 1945. Eleanor Roosevelt praised Fair is the Morning in her column in the New York World Telegram. A scrapbook in the WTAMU Erdman Collection contains a copy of Roosevelt's column.
THE YEARS OF THE LOCUST (1946)
Erdman's first adult novel achieved spectacular success, winning the biennial Dodd, Mead-Redbook $10,000 prize. It is the story of how the death of Dade Kenzie, the wise, influential patriarch of a Missouri farming family, affects his family and acquaintances. The story is told through flashbacks in the minds of seven individuals whose lives were profoundly influenced by Kenzie. The action covers the time slightly before Dade's death until after his funeral.
LONELY PASSAGE (1948)
Lonely Passage is about a girl, Thurley Renfro, who does not seem to fit in with the boisterous clan of Pembertons (her mother's family) into which she had been born. She loses the young man she loves but finds peace and fulfillment after turning to another young man who loves her. Erdman named Lonely Passage as one of her personal favorites among her novels even though her publisher called it "a sad little book" (1).
THE EDGE OF TIME (1950)
In researching Erdman, one often encounters this quote spoken by Aunt Clara in The Edge of Time: "Never was a man yet who didn't fancy himself running right alongside Daniel Boone and maybe even a step or two ahead of him. What I've always wanted to look at is Mrs. Daniel Boone's diary" (2). This novel, often considered Erdman's best book, looked into the lives of the "nester" women who helped settle the Texas Panhandle. The Edge of Time tells the story of Wade and Bethany Cameron, a young Missouri couple who set out in a covered wagon right after their wedding ceremony in 1885 to homestead in the Texas Panhandle. Wade married Bethany "on the rebound" after his intended bride, Bethany's beautiful cousin Rosemary, married a rich banker. Bethany, who had always secretly loved Wade, cannot help wondering if she is second in her husband's heart. The story follows the young couple as they deal with the hardships of life in the sparsely settled Texas Panhandle of the 1880s. The Family Reading Club chose The Edge of Time as the October 1950 selection. A proposed movie project failed because Erdman refused to allow the addition of a range war. She knew from her meticulous research that such events almost never occurred in the settlement of the Texas Panhandle.
THE WIND BLOWS FREE (1952)
The Wind Blows Free is the first book in Erdman's trilogy about the Pierce family of "nesters" who homesteaded in the Texas Panhandle in the 1890s. The novel follows their difficulties as they try to wrench a living from the dry land. The Pierce family has three daughters, and the first novel tells the story of the oldest daughter, 14-year-old Melinda. This novel won the Dodd, Mead-American Girl Award as the best family book.
MY SKY IS BLUE (1953)
A clipping from Junior Reviewer in one of Erdman's scrapbooks provides a summary of My Sky is Blue: "Jinny Craig finds herself teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in New Mexico after a broken romance back in Missouri. She has to live in an adobe house with an almost strange woman, after making an enemy of her landlord for reasons she can't fathom. Her big teaching problem is racial prejudice--Mexicans aren't welcome in the community. For having the courage to stay when she wants to run home, and for being resourceful, she finds an answer to each of her problems--including her romantic one." Junior Reviewer; Newton Centre, Massachusetts; December, 1953; page number not included with clipping
THREE AT THE WEDDING (1953)
Three at the Wedding starts and ends with a wedding, the same wedding. The story takes place chiefly in the thoughts and memories of three women watching the ceremony who played key roles in the lives of the couple getting married. Erdman said of this novel: "Even now, I still think it was one of the best books I have done--that it went more deeply into the minds and hearts of my characters than I have ever done before or since" (3).
THE FAR JOURNEY (1955)
Catherine Delaney's plans to travel from Missouri with her uncle and son to join her husband on their Texas Panhandle homestead go awry when her uncle is killed enroute. Catherine decides to go on alone and faces many hardships and harrowing experiences on the trail to Texas.
THE WIDE HORIZON (1956)
The Wide Horizon continues the story of the Pierce family who homesteaded in the Texas Panhandle. This novel revolves around Katie, the second daughter. Katie is an artistic, sensitive, dreamer who lives for the day she can go back to East Texas to live with her grandmother and attend a girls' academy. However, the grandmother's ill health forces Katie's mother to return to East Texas immediately, leaving the inexperienced Katie in charge of the household. The novel shows Katie increasing in maturity and judgment as she takes responsibility for the family home. Erdman's niece, Elizabeth Erdman, designed the original book jacket.
THE SHORT SUMMER (1958)
A clipping from an Erdman scrapbook summarized The Short Summer: "The time is the summer of 1914--in the prosperous, complacent, smug, tremendously naive period just before the assassination of an Austrian archduke at Sarajevo set off the first world war. The theme is an exploration of the question, 'Is it possible for people to be untouched by what happens to other people?'" Plainview Daily Herald; Plainview, Texas; May 13, 1958; page number not included with clipping
THE GOOD LAND (1959)
The Good Land is the last in the trilogy of the Pierce family of Panhandle homesteaders, and it belongs to the youngest daughter, Carolyn, now 15. She experiences some of the difficulties of growing up as "the baby of the family." Also, Carolyn rescues her sister Katie's floundering romance and helps an immigrant family new to the Panhandle.
MANY A VOYAGE (1960; revised edition 1967)
Many a Voyage is the story of Fannie Ross, the wife of Senator Edmund Ross, the man whose vote saved President Andrew Johnson from conviction during the historic impeachment trial. The book jacket explains: "... the remarkable story of one woman's odyssey in following her husband through the most taxing years of America's past. In telling it, Loula Grace Erdman gives a memorable portrait of the half-century that encompassed the bitter anti-slavery struggle, the Civil War and its chaotic aftermath in the Reconstruction era" (4).
THE MAN WHO TOLD THE TRUTH (1962)
From book jacket: "The novel and the stories in this volume are varied in mood and theme, but they all reveal Miss Erdman's skill in getting below the surface of everyday life. The novel, The Man Who Told the Truth, is about a stranger in a Texas town. Oddly reticent about his own past, his personal observations about other peoples' lives brought understanding and help to some, love to others. Then ... the townspeople learned his secret"(5).
ROOM TO GROW (1962)
A clipping from Erdman's scrapbook contains this summary of Room to Grow: "In 1901 the French Danton family came to America to settle in the Texas Panhandle. There Celeste, Michele and Mamma sometimes were homesick, but that never lasted long. Soon all of the Dantons participate in existing events, such as the pie supper for which Papa auctions off the pies. Another is when Pierre and Celeste go alone to the roundup to claim their cattle. Almost before they realized it, the Dantons were Americans. Ages 8-12." Press; Cleveland, Ohio; November 5, 1962; page number not included with clipping
LIFE WAS SIMPLER THEN (1963)
Life was Simpler Then contains articles and essays that portray life as it was during Erdman's youth in rural Missouri.
This book is a collection of 14 short stories for young people. It contains both fiction and non-fiction.
ANOTHER SPRING (1966)
Another Spring depicts the misery of dislocation visited upon thousands of Missourians in 1863 as a result of the infamous military Order Number Eleven. As the book jacket explains: "... the military order was posted in four western counties of Missouri, banishing by federal edict all inhabitants, sympathizers of the Union as well as the Confederacy. Harried by roaming hostile bands, their homes burned, thousands fled the proscribed areas. Erdman's novel follows two families as they struggle to survive" (6).
A TIME TO WRITE (1969)
A Time to Write is Erdman's autobiography. It focuses more on her writing life than on her personal life and contains much good, practical advice for aspiring writers. Erdman's tone is humorous, self-effacing, and engaging, and her clear writing style draws the reader effortlessly through the book. Persons interested in Erdman's life may wish to visit the Cornette Library Erdman Collection and read her personal journals (1936 to 1976).
A BLUEBIRD WILL DO (1973)
From book jacket: "Nancy Sullivan was only sixteen, but already she'd had adventures to last a lifetime. Her family had made the trip overland by wagon train from Illinois when everyone had 'gold fever.' Papa never made it to San Francisco, but Nancy and her mother buckled down and made a living there by serving meals. And then her mother died, and Nancy was faced with a decision: to carry on alone, or try to hunt up Cousin Matilda in New Orleans. Veiled threats headed her back East, and this is the colorful story of her return trip across the Isthmus of Panama" (7).
SAVE WEEPING FOR THE NIGHT (1975)
Save Weeping for the Night is based on the true story of Erdman's fellow Missourian Bettie Shelby, wife of Confederate general Joseph Shelby. The novel portrays their meeting and follows the couple's lives both before and after the war. Cornette Library's Erdman Collection has a typescript of this novel as well as correspondence between Erdman and her publisher about it.