What people are saying about Utopia Texas!
“Big oil, big land, and larger-than-life characters all spell Texas.But Brya’s family has a host of dark secrets as well.Able to face down the competition in a cut-throat business of men can she also face the demons plaguing her daughter before they pass down to the next generation of the family’s women? UTOPIA TEXAS is Texana at its most raw.And in the end, its most redemptive.
— Susan Mary Malone, author of the novel, By the Book
“Betty Byrd has created a story that is as intense as an oil well fire – volatile and explosive. Utopia Texas will make you feel as if you had lived it, while being forever thankful you didn’t.”
— J.D. Smith, host of “Pursuing the Blues” — KCLAFM.com, Los Angeles, CA
“The oil field has its share of personalities that are larger than life.Fueled by strong wills and old-fashioned guts in order to face the unthinkable, Byrd’s Utopia Texas is compulsively readable.”
— Bill Bledsoe, Petroleum Engineer, Fort Worth, Texas
“Both a rich portrait of mid-century oil speculation and a classic tale of mother-daughter conflict, Utopia Texas is no paradise, but it’s a satisfying – and sometimes frightening – trip through purgatory.
At the heart of the novel is Brya Harrison, a rich Texan trying her hand at petroleum exploration. The search for crude in West Texas is a man’s game – at least mid-century, when the novel is set. But Brya, a tough dame with whom Byrd obviously sympathizes, throws herself into this new enterprise with hurricane force, buying up properties, as her husband says, “from here to Timbuktu.” Brya, whose past is a tortured patchwork of pain and loss, is recently remarried to Cole, Utopia’s most provocative character. Cole is a Jack Daniels – swilling, lecherous Texas who, despite his flaws, boosts a generous streak and a warm spot in his heart for his stepdaughter Olivia. Though Olivia is Brya’s daughter the two are polar opposites. An eccentric soul, the tall, gangly girl has few friends and can barely hear out of one ear. She also has a strange – one might call it Carrie-esque – tendency to court danger. For reasons that only eventually become starkly clear, mysterious accidents happen when Olivia is around – near drownings, broken bones, deep cuts – and the hard-charging Brya is repeatedly challenged to cover up her daughter’s “mishaps” as she tries to maintain her social standing and make her way as a big oil speculator. As Byrd is well aware, thick, black oil is both the dark blood that gives her novel’s world life and the pitchy trap that snares the unwary in greed and vice. Oil, in other words, yields both promise and peril, and the author is adept at mining the different meanings of her novel’s central symbol. She is equally capable when it comes to balancing her two complex heroines. Though their destinies are intimately related, Brya and Olivia need to cut distinct paths through Utopia, and Bryd gives each such strength and definition that their inevitable clashes – and there are many – burn with the energy of an oil fire.
A thrilling tour de force.”
— Kirkus Discoveries
“According to Ermest Hemingway, ‘A writer’s style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous.’
Betty Byrd has accomplished this and more in her intriguing follow-up to “Trinity’s Daughter.” Every family has dark secrets and colorful characters that spice up any gathering of clan, and can either rub you the wrong way or be a breath of fresh air. Some family members, however, can literally suck the oxygen out of a room faster than a wildcatter’s worst nightmare.
“Utopia Texas” is a great summer read that explodes from page one with a hellish oil well blowout in Venezuela that grabs our attention and, like hot fingers of fire clenched around throats, squeezes every last drop of drama out of one family’s journey along the teetering edge of madness and how it threatens to pull them all into the abyss.
Now, toss an innocent child into the mix and stir, vigorously. When oil deals and society status trump true love, and when anyone threatens the family – whether from without or within – the depth and length to which Brya Harrison goes, to hold this dysfunctional family together, will keep you turning the page.
That today’s very real oil crisis looms over all mankind, affecting the lifestyles of everyone from kings and queens to the little pawns, is perfectly poignant and cause for much introspection. “Utopia Texas” will make you stop and think about how far you’d go for wealth, power, and prestige, and Betty will make you cry at a price an innocent girl must pay for all the trappings of high society.”
—H. Scott Hackney (West Coast) May 4, 2008
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