Gulf Coast Reads -- The Promise

October brings the beginning of autumn – although in Southeast Texas, it still feels like summer.  Still, it’s a time of change.  School has been in session for a while and we get settled into the routines associated with that.  Holidays are getting close, and we start planning where we’ll be and who we might visit – or who will visit us.  We take advantage of the warmth and get in some outdoor activities before the winds change and we get cool, rainy weather.

But somewhere in all the busy times and chores and running errands, we really need to take a little time for ourselves.  In fact, it’s the perfect time for Gulf Coast Reads.

Gulf Coast Reads is an annual event during which people along the upper Texas Gulf Coast are encouraged to read or listen to the same book during the month of October.  There are related programs throughout in numerous venues, from discussion groups to talks on the time period and events in the story, many with the author.

This year’s book is The Promise by Ann Weisgarber.  Set in 1900, it is a story told by two young women:  Catherine Wainwright, a pianist, born to a life of privilege in Dayton, Ohio and Nan Ogden, the daughter of a fisherman, born and raised in Galveston, Texas.  Their paths should never have crossed – except for widowed dairy farmer Oscar Williams and his five-year-old son Andre.

When Catherine, desperate for a fresh start after a scandal, accepts a marriage proposal from Oscar and moves to Galveston, she finds herself unprepared for life there.  Nan, Oscar’s housekeeper, is equally unprepared for the changes brought by Catherine’s arrival.  Nan had made a promise to Oscar’s first wife Bernadette that she would always look after Andre.  And now Oscar has remarried.  As they face the new circumstances in their lives, a storm moves in from the gulf.  A storm that will change everything.  The 1900 Galveston Hurricane.

The Promise touches on many aspects of life in 1900 – from upper class society and customs in the Midwest to the farm life in Texas.  And it examines the timeless stories of love lost and unfulfilled dreams and the possibility of a new life and new love.  All of these have inspired movies and television.  Check the list below for some of them.  You’ll find a wide variety of films and TV series.  You'll also see documentaries on hurricanes, including the 1900 Hurricane.

And be sure to reserve your copy of The Promise and join in Gulf Coast Reads during the month of October.

Days of Heaven – Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard
Giant – Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean
Lonesome Dove – Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, Robert Urich

Victorian/Edwardian Social Life and Customs
The Age of Innocence – Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, Wynona Ryder
The House of Mirth – Gillian Anderson, Eric Stolz
In the Good Old Summertime – Judy Garland, Van Johnson
The Magnificent Ambersons – Joseph Cotten, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead
Meet Me in St. Louis – Judy Garland, Mary Astor, Margaret O’Brien

Pioneer Life
Centennial – Robert Conrad, Richard Chamberlain
Cimarron (1960) – Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter
O Pioneers! -- Jessica Lange, David Strathairn
Old Yeller – Tommy Kirk, Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker

Love Stories
Love Comes Softly – Katherine Heigl, Dale Midkiff
The Magic of Ordinary Days – Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich
Sarah, Plain and Tall – Glenn Close, Christopher Walken

Isaac’s Storm -- This feature-length special based on Erik Larson's book has weather experts, historians, and survivors' descendants guiding us through the horrific day that claimed over 6,000 lives.
Voices by the Bay : an Oral History of Seabrook -- More than 30 longtime Seabrook residents tell their stories of this colorful Galveston Bay community southeast of Houston, Texas, settled in 1832 by Spanish Land Grant recipients known as "Austin's 300." In this land of Indians, pirates, hurricanes, and the Texas Revolution, they created a life for themselves in what would eventually become Seabrook. Stories range from the tragic to the humorous, all set in the sleepy fishing village that became a breezy summer escape in 1900 for wealthy Houstonians on "Millionaires Row."
Hurricanes, Category Five -- Examines the destructive power of hurricanes, focusing on the powerful storms that hit the U.S. in 1926, 1938 and 1992.
Hurricane! -- Fly into the eye of an unstoppable hurricane to see what makes it tick.
Hurricanes : Deadly Wind, Deadly Rain -- Documents some of the deadliest hurricanes to hit America prior to 1998 and paints a chilling portrait of nature's overwhelming destructive power. Also discusses the strides scientists have made in understanding and predicting these storms.

Reality Series
Frontier House -- Three modern families were chosen to learn to survive as if the year is 1883. Using the tools and technology of that time they must make difficult choices and cope with the consequences in the Montana wilderness.
Texas Ranch House -- Follow the daily life of a brave and diverse group of cowboys-at-heart who discover how the myth of the American West meshes with reality, as 15 people learn what it was like to get a ranch up and running in 1867.

Special mention:
King Vidor was born in Galveston on February 8, 1894 and survived the hurricane of 1900.  He grew up to become a renowned film director.   His first film was the short subject Hurricane in Galveston in 1913.  He received five Oscar nominations for The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah (1929), The Champ (1931), The Citadel (1938), and War and Peace (1956).  In 1979, Vidor was awarded an honorary Oscar.  He died in 1982 at age 88. 

La Boheme (1926) – Lillian Gish, John Gilbert
The Crowd (1928) – Eleanor Boardman, James Murray
Hallelujah (1929) – Daniel L. Haynes, Nina Mae McKinney
The Champ (1931) – Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper
The Texas Rangers (1936) – Fred MacMurray, Jack Oakie
Stella Dallas (1937) – Barbara Stanwyck, Anne Shirley
The Citadel (1938) – Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – uncredited, though he directed the Kansas scenes
Northwest Passage (1940) – Spencer Tracy, Robert Young
Duel in the Sun (1946) – Jennifer Jones, Gregory Peck, Joseph Cotten
The Fountainhead (1949) – Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal
Ruby Gentry (1952) – Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston
Man Without a Star (1955) – Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain
War and Peace (1956) – Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Mel Ferrer
Solomon and Sheba (1959) – Yul Brynner, Gina Lolloabrigida