It is the middle of the Great Depression with millions out of work and many more just scraping by. Daniel Tomelin, a carpenter/cabinet maker and World War 1 veteran, has simply walked out of his home leaving his wife LaDaisy and their children to fend for themselves.
Daniel’s travels searching for work take him around the country from Missouri to Washington, D.C. and back again. On the way, he learns to value what is truly important in his life.
LaDaisy must work at menial jobs to support her children. Her life is one of constant struggle, worry, and tragedy.
Daniel must decide whether or not to return home and LaDaisy whether or not to accept him if he does.
Theme of the Book
The Great Depression brought out the best and the worst in people. There were acts of pure charity and generosity but there were also terrible crimes, often caused by a sense of desperation. Throughout the novel, the misery of the era is ever-present but so too is the underlying theme of love, family, and forgiveness.
What I Liked About the Story
Memories of the Great Depression are fading with the aging and death of those who lived through it. This well-researched and well-written novel gives those of us who thankfully did not experience life during the Depression a true-to-life picture of what things were like. From farmers struggling with drought to laborers without jobs and veterans with no benefits, nearly everyone was affected in some way. With the social safety net, inadequate though it may be, present in the United States today, it is almost impossible to imagine a time without government aid programs for the poorest and most desperate. The images the author draws of drying fields, of empty factories and shops, of men in bread lines or riding the rails evokes both horror and sympathy.
Face the Winter Naked tells the stories of Daniel and LaDaisy, with alternating chapters giving each his or her time as the main character. Daniel, suffering from what today is known to be PTSD, leaves home to find work and to resolve his own conflicts. He is mainly a sympathetic character – a proud man who feels only shame at his inability to support his family. His basic goodness is evident throughout his narrative, especially when he takes a young homeless boy, Chris, under his protective wing. At times, Daniel is frustrating. The reader will probably feel ready to tell him to just go home. Having left his wife nearly penniless and with several mouths to feed, Daniel deserves the anger and frustration some readers will feel.
LaDaisy’s chapters, on the other hand, evoke only feelings of sympathy and respect. Here is a young woman, the sole support for her children, left to struggle with little money and with the abusive attentions of her landlord. LaDaisy is unlike Daniel in that she is practical, independent, strong, and determined to keep her family together. With a mother who is constantly belittling her, LaDaisy must depend on her own inner resources to survive.
In order to avoid giving away one of the critical points of the plot, it is necessary to cut the discussion of LaDaisy short. However, readers should be prepared for shocking but totally believable scenes.
Readers who are unfamiliar with the events of the Great Depression may be shocked when they read of the Bonus Army’s treatment in Washington. However shocking it may be, this is part of American history and should be remembered.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
While the main part of Face the Winter Naked was excellent, the ending came as something of a disappointment. I would have appreciated it more had the author cut the length of some of the Daniel chapters to focus more on a better-written ending.
Face the Winter Naked is not a cheerful book. Readers looking for light entertainment should choose something else. However, it is a very good book that portrays a desperate time in American history with care and sensitivity.