Harpsong by Rilla Askew
(Stories & Storytellers Series)

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Harlan Singer, a harmonica-playing troubadour, shows up in the Thompson family’s yard one morning. He steals their hearts with his music, and their daughter with his charm. Soon he and his fourteen-year-old bride, Sharon, are on the road, two more hobos of the Great Depression, hitchhiking and hopping freights across the Great Plains in search of an old man and the settlement of Harlan’s long-standing debt.

Finding shelter in hobo jungles and Hoovervilles, the newlyweds careen across the 1930s landscape in a giant figure eight with Oklahoma in the middle. Sharon’s growing doubts about her husband’s quest set in motion events that turn Harlan Singer into a hero while blinding her to the dark secret of his journey. A love story infused with history and folk tradition, Harpsong shows what happened to the friends and neighbors Steinbeck’s Joads left behind.

In this moving, redemptive tale inspired by Oklahoma folk heroes, Rilla Askew continues her exploration of the American story. Harpsong is a novel of love and loss, of adventure and renewal, and of a wayfaring orphan’s search for home—all set to the sounds of Harlan’s harmonica. It shows us the strength and resilience of a people who, in the face of unending despair, maintain their faith in the land.


About Rilla Askew

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Rilla Askew is the author of "Strange Business," a collection of stories, & the novel "The Mercy Seat," which was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner award & the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Award, & was the winner of the Western Heritage Award & the Oklahoma Book Award.
Published December 7, 2011 by University of Oklahoma Press. 221 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Harlan, as retribution, robs the local bank and becomes the stuff of legend, though he later returns the money, for he and Sharon are religious folks, caught in a cycle of sin and the quest for redemption.

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