When immigrant settlers moved into the southern plains in the 1870s, they found immense flat land with head-high grasses, little rain and relentless wind, strewn with the bones of slaughtered buffalo. The Broken Land is the story of three generations of pioneer farmers in western Kansas and the Texas panhandle. Though their lives are hard, they find joy in music, faith, and shared sacrifice.
In 1919, Lina and Sam are leaving Kansas for Texas, to grow wheat to feed war-starved Europe. They load a covered wagon with their two young sons and the piano that Sam has just given Lina, so she can continue playing the music she learned from her mother.
Depression and drought founder the Texas farm in the 1930s. Worse yet, mass plowing of the plains creates catastrophic dust storms that blow through like blizzards, destroying the fertile land. Sam and Lina’s son, Keith, has fallen in love with Audrey, a musician and poet. They have married, and she is now pregnant. Audrey is Lina’s best friend; they share their love of singing and playing the piano. But Audrey gives birth to twins, as a massive dust storm blows through the farm. Weakened by a difficult delivery, Audrey chokes on the swirling dust, and dies.
While writing in her diary in 1963, Lina remembers Audrey, whose death changed everyone’s lives. Keith has fallen into alcoholism and violence. The twins, Dean and Gean, are now young fathers. Lina decides to leave her piano to Dean’s infant daughter in the hope that Audrey’s music will live on through her.