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Anna, an unmarried and pregnant college student in Washington State
braves a crowd of protesters to get an abortion. She's relieved to
resume her schooling and the photography she loves, but she never
minimizes the loss of life. Soon she drifts into a general
depression, burning her photographs and unable to shoot more. Her
life seems as empty as her body.

California teenager Cerise punishes herself for her forlorn
awkwardness by burning her wrists on a hot iron. Feeling grateful
for the attention and yet disconnected from what's happening, she
sleeps with a boy she meets. Soon, she's pregnant and being
counseled in a LifeRight office. Cerise informs her angry mother
that she will keep her baby, and the LifeRight people help her move
into her own apartment and apply for welfare. Despite her sudden
popularity at school due to her exotic condition, she's soon too
tired to care. She drops out of school and doesn't care when her
boyfriend finds a new girlfriend.

Ten years pass. Cerise is now cleaning a nursing home to support
her beloved daughter Melody. Despite her poverty, she takes joy in
her little family. Anna is equally content --- married, living in
her grandparents' old house, and expecting a child.

Life takes a downward turn for both women, however. Anna finds
herself pregnant with her second child just as her husband loses
his job. They are forced to move to California, away from family
and friends. Anna's second daughter has health problems at birth,
while her older child has trouble adapting to her new school. Anna
has never regained the art that sustained her at one time; she can
no longer lose herself in her photography.

Cerise struggles with Melody, who has become a hostile teenager.
When Cerise consoles herself with a boyfriend, she finds herself
pregnant. Travis is born, and his father vanishes. In an attempt to
better herself, Cerise starts college. But an unbearable tragedy
strikes soon after Melody leaves home forever. Cerise escapes to
the forest, meeting a woman who tells her, "Healing is the human
task. Your job is to heal." Cerise, homeless and nearly senseless
with desperation, walks miles alone in her quest for healing. Her
journey eventually leads to meeting Anna, now a college teacher,
and the women draw power from the intersection of their

Since I read Jean Hegland's first novel, the amazing INTO THE
FOREST, I've been eagerly anticipating her second. WINDFALLS, in
many ways a totally different work, continues her theme of how
difficult yet possible survival is, no matter how far we

If you're looking for a lighthearted feel-good escape, try another
book. This is a hefty, thought-provoking, densely plotted tome,
filled with intense tragedy and subtle uplifting redemption. Some
of the devastating events that befall these two women are almost
physically painful to read. There were moments when I nearly closed
the book for good because of the bleak subject matter. But by then
I was in the power of a master storyteller and firmly entrenched in
these women's lives --- I had to find out what happened to them. I
persevered and was glad I did. The tremendous emotional payoff was
more than worth it.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 24, 2011

by Jean Hegland

  • Publication Date: April 20, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 0743470079
  • ISBN-13: 9780743470070