Desert Daughter
by Nancy Key Roeder



Plain View Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-632-10014-6.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 03/02/2016
Review of the Month, March 2016

Fiction: Mainstream

Are you drawn to the subdued hues and extreme contrasts of the desert Southwest? This novel may appeal to you, for the author describes in artful detail the arid landscapes of New Mexico and Arizona. In Desert Daughter, Nancy Key Roeder paints a picture of the place she grew up and returns to live, through the eyes of her fictional character, Linda.

The constant and vast desert Southwest is the backdrop for this story of a woman searching for answers about her relationship with her father.

She wonders about her background, her place in the family. Questions plague her and reverberate through the places she remembers growing up. A fitting setting, this desert wasteland, where she felt abandoned by her absent father. Her tale evolves in a progression of time like a slowly sinking desert sun, from her childhood to adulthood and then motherhood. The story concludes as Linda and her daughter return from the coast of California to the Southwest to live.

In some places, this barren land flourishes as irrigation ditches bring water to fields and towns to nourish the lives of desert denizens. From a seemingly deprived setting, springs beauty and regeneration. Similarly, Linda's internal life reflects these cycles of the desert.

This book evokes a strong sense and power of place. In this excerpt, the author launches a stream of her feelings about where she has lived.

Home was not just the physical spaces where she had grown up. Home was not something static. Home happened. Home happened whenever and wherever new growth took place. Home happened on the walk in the desert. Home happened at the dunes at the edge of the Pacific Ocean...Home happened in these very moments when she walked along the banks of an irrigation canal carrying water to thirsty crops.

Through contemplation and revisiting her past with her daughter, Linda arrives at a place where she reaches understanding and acceptance of how she was raised. The resolution of her feelings and new perspective is one aspect of her story that resonated with me and perhaps others would enjoy.


Nancy Key Roeder, a retired high school English teacher, has published one other book besides Desert Daughter, called Going to the Well. Her early writing career began as a reporter and feature writer for The Albuquerque Tribune. She also has published a number of free-lance articles and essays. She grew up in New Mexico and now resides in Colorado. Visit her website.

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