‘‘Oleanders in June” by Whitney Vandiver, Northern Pines Press, Pearland, 2019, paperback, 574 pages, $17
Well researched and written, the author has created a historical novel based on a pivotal event in Galveston Island’s history, which took place in September 1900.
Theoretically ideally located, it was called “The Wall Street of the South” by the late 19th century, center of commerce, shipping and home of the state’s first medical school.
It begins when the oleanders are in bloom, in June 1900. Alfred Ridgeway arrives to work with esteemed climatologist Issac Cline and his younger brother, Joseph, at the island’s U.S. Weather Bureau.
He finds lodging at a boarding house run by a physician’s widow, where two medical students also lodge. Both at the Weather Bureau and the boarding house, Alfred, a sensitive natured man, finds tension and intrigue. Fortunately, he also meets a young woman at St. Joesph’s Church and romance blooms over the next three months.
Alfred meets barons of Galveston commerce and their desired goals for broadening the island’s interests. He’s very sensitive to the brothers’ differences on the island’s vulnerability to Gulf storms, especially now that headquarters for the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington, D.C. has chosen to disregard Cuba’s location in notifying shipping and U.S. coastal regions once storms enter the Gulf of Mexico.
Tension in the boarding house threaten future physicians’ goals as intrigue mounts. The saving grace for Alfred is his work with a naturalist of the island and observing bird migrations. His beau teaches him about the island’s flora on their walks through the island.
The island changes, as will its people, literally overnight in September. That night people’s hearts will open to help; 8,000 others will stop forever, but through that experience people’s true nature will show forth. Its people will reinvent Galveston.
It’s a book readers will be intrigued to read.
Whitney Vandiver, already a skilled writer, adds another talent — novelist to her mysteries and historical fiction. She lives in nearby Pearland.