Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best Book of 2011

I will come up with a top ten list soon, but this one is #1 for sure.  There were quite a few readers that mentioned in comments over the last year that I would like this book and I am sorry to say that I took my time checking it out of the library.

I  adored every bit of it. I read it twice IN A ROW. Bess Streeter Aldrich's writing reminds me a little of Lucy Maud Montgomery's.  I love historical fiction, I love the story of hardship, real poverty (oh how quickly we forget!) and survival, I love that dear Abby-girl was such an incredible mother and wife and knew where the good stuff was at.

I bought a copy for myself-I do that with my favorites-I only want my bookshelves filled with my favorite books.  The copied I borrowed from the library was heavenly-the pages were buttery worn and soft and smelled like that old lovely library smell.  I want this copy really really bad, but alas, I have a new little paperback. I will search high and low for a hardback on Ebay.


Here are a few excerpts from the book I just adored.  Sorry to bore you.  I can't help myself.

"Historians say, "The winter of 'seventy-four to 'seventy-five was a time of deep depression."  But historians do not take little children into consideration.  Deep depression?  To three children on the prairie it was a time of glamour.  There was not much to eat in the cupboard.  There was little or not money in the father's flat old pocketbook.  The presents were pitifully homely and meager.  And all in a tiny house,-a mere shell of a house, on a new raw acreage of the wild bleak prairie.  How could a little rude cabin hold so much white magic?  How could a little sod house know such enchantment?  And how could a little hut like that eventually give to the midwest so many influential men and women?  How, indeed?  Unless,...unless the star really did stop over the house?"
....
"Afterwards they went out on the porch and Abbie held the little girl on her lap. She cuddled her up and put her wrinkled cheek against the child's firm one. Oh, why didn't mothers do it more when they had the chance?  What were clubs and social affairs and freedom by comparison? And what was freedom?"
....
"You know Grace, it's queer but I don't feel narrow.  I feel broad.  How can I explain it to you so you can understand?  I've seen everything....and I've hardly been away from this yard.  I've seen cathedrals in the snow on the Lombard poplars.  I've seen the sun set behind the Alps over there when the clouds have been piled up on the edge of the prairie.  I've seen the ocean billows in the rise and the fall of the paririe grass.  I've seen history in the making....three ugly wars flare up and die down.  I've sent a lover and two brothers to one, a son and a son-in-law to another, and two grandsons to another.  I've seen the feeble beginnings of a raw state and the civilization that developed there, and I've been part of the beginning and part of the growth.  I've married...and borne children and looked into the face of death.   Is childbirth narrow, Grace?  Or marriage?  Or death?  When you've experieced all those things, Grace, the spirit has traveled although the body has been confined.  I think travel is a rare privilege and I'm glad you can have it.  But not every one who stays at home is narrow and not every one who travels is broad.  I think if you can understand humanity...can sympathize with every creature...can put yourself into the personality of every one...you're not narrow...you're broad."

46 comments :

  1. Wow, Sarah...I especially love that last excerpt. I, too, am a lover of historical fiction. And well, I just enjoy a good read whatever the genre--it sounds as if I need to track down a copy of this one. Thanks so much for sharing. :-)

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  2. I remember when I was twelve a woman I babysat for recommended this book to me (along with Mrs. Mike), but she told me that I must promise to read it again as a mother which I haven't done yet. Such fine thoughts. . .

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  3. Not only do I love historical fiction, I love ones set in the deep south, those are my favorites! I am glad I am not the only one who has not given into the Kindle or Nook I love the feel of the pages and the feel of a book on my lap! Enjoy! What's next on your reading list?

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  4. oh good gracious! You have got me hooked now! I'm going to have to read it for sure. I love historical fiction. And well, history in general. Have you ever read the book "Seven Alone" or "Follow the River". Heartwrenching and are actually both true stories. But definitely, triumph over tragedy in very hard times. Late 1800's I believe is the time period. Thank you for sharing this Sarah! :)

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  5. Bess Aldrich was a contemporary of Willa Cather, who also wrote about the Midwest, but her books are very grim and gritty, and Aldrich's books are stretching and uplifting. All of Aldrich's writing has that wonderful vision in it.
    One of my favorite Christmas stories is by Bess Aldrich, "Star Across The Tracks." Joe Wheeler published it in his first Christmas In My Heart book, (the one without a volume number). Find it online, you'll love the whole set of Christmas stories.
    I love books, but I am at the other end of life and now I am giving them away instead of acquiring them. Luckily I have read them all enough that they are inside of me now.

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  6. Sounds wonderful. I'll have to add that to my list :)

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  7. Oh great! I need another book to read and I love historical fiction. I just finished Gone with the Wind. I can't believe I have never read it before. It was the best book!!! Now I get to treat myself to the movie this weekend :)

    Have you ever read Katherine? It's a great historical fiction book set in the 1500's I believe. I have tons of historical fiction books I have enjoyed as well but most were set in England. Let me know if you ever want any suggestions.

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  8. Oh My Gosh! I think I read this book when I was in high school. Thing is my memory isn't that great but reading the excepts make me think that I have read it. I read a lot of Willa Cather books about the prairie in high school and this book sounds so familiar. Thanks for blogging about this. I am adding this book to my list to read in 2012. Even if I read it 40 years ago I think I will enjoy it again. I loved My Antonia by Willa Cather so I would highly recommend that as well.

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  9. Historical Fiction is also my favorite, so I will definitely have to read this one! You always have such good taste is books, and I have yet to be disappointed in any that you have suggested! I'm looking forward to your top ten list!

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  10. I read this book when I was a teenager and I remember it being one of my favorites- up there with all of the L. M. Montgomery books. We have the same taste in books for sure! I'm going to go dig through my childhood books and see if I still have it... probably time for a re-read!

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  11. oh, i haven't read this book for years and years! but i know i loved it.

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  12. Perfect! We are meeting together as a book club to set our books for next year...this will be my suggestion :)

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  13. Oh my gosh, Sarah, this has been my favorite book ever since I read it in 8th grade ten years ago. No one has ever heard of it, and I can't understand why not, because it's amazing! I'm so glad you read it and loved it!

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  14. I would recommend the book: Jacob, Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson I loved it! I especially loved the ending.

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  15. I am getting this book. Today. Just because of the excerpts you shared!
    Sounds like delicious words for my soul.

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  16. You had me at "reminds me a little bit of L.M. Montgomery"!!!

    added it to my library request list!

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  17. Hope my library has this....I have never heard of it so I am glad you recommended it. I am also going to try your "fancy" financial budgeting system! Its a new year and I need a new system...it looks easy and inexepensive! Thanks!

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  18. Definitely looking into taking this out of the library. I'm actually working my way through "War and Peace" speaking of historical fiction.

    Some other reads you might like are "Sarah's Key" and also any book by "Kate Morton" especially the "Forgotten Garden." Not exactly historical fiction, but in that same vein.

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  19. Holy Moly I needed that. Will be checking that one out next. After i finish the 100 thing challenge, which I think that you as a fellow purger would enjoy!

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  20. I confess I have this book, but haven't read it. But now that it comes with such high praise, I'm moving it to my New Year's TBR list.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  21. Oh, I can't wait to read it!!

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  22. thanks for that little snippet...now I really want to read it!

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  23. Oh I LOVE that book! My mom owns it. I read it when I was in my early teens... I think around 15, but I can't remember. I too am looking for my own copy now. I haven't it read it in way too long and I need to read it again.

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  24. Sounds like a gem that I need to read...especially that last paragraph. That's something I continually try to remind myself of being a travel addict. I can find those experiences I'm craving right in my back yard if I work on it and see it as making me "broad." It doesn't have to be travel.

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  25. Would it be possible to trade with the library, swapping your new copy for their old? No harm in asking....
    x

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  26. I love reading. I need to make more time to read this year.
    P.S. Have you heard of www.alibris.com? Used/new books at a fraction of the cost! Out of print titles too!

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  27. Definitely try Alibris. They may even have some older copies of the book. Just double check the shipping as sometimes it is a bit high. I'm going there now to see if I can find a copy for my bookshelf. Thanks for sharing what you love with us.

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  28. Here's a copy on etsy that's really pretty.

    http://www.etsy.com/listing/82001935/a-lantern-in-her-hand-book?ref=sr_gallery_1&sref=&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=a+lantern+in+her+hand&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=vintage&ga_facet=vintage

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  29. Excellent quotes! It certainly has drawn me in! I rarely comment on blogs but yours has been such an inspiration and is so kind and real I just need to say, "Thank You!"

    I do not have children, and I am coming to a point in my life where it is starting to weigh on my mind.
    Can I? Should I?
    Your words, advice and truth about your choices and convictions give me inspiration. I have read your blog for a long time and it continues to be my favorite! Thank you for taking the time to share yourself!

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  30. I've been reading your blog for sometime now - it's one of my favorites. I don't think I've ever commented, but I just had to today. I've got to get my hands on this book. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine, and my students are always asking for book suggestions. This one sounds like something they would enjoy.

    Thanks!

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  31. I read this book atleast twice as a teen and enjoyed it. I recently read it again as a mother 15 years later. It took on such new meaning and story as I had grown and changed in my life and experiences. I cried and I loved it.

    About a year ago my mother found, read and then lent me the sequel called "A White Bird Flying". A great way to continue to live through the wonderful family we have been introduced to. I still remember very specific parts (don't want to give anything away!) with love and joy and tears. If you can find it, I would highly recommend it.

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  32. Just ordered it. My library didn't have it but I have loved most of your book suggestions. Did you suggest "The Dirty Life" by Kristen Kimball? Can't remember who did but it was very good!

    Also had to let you know we bought a Plasma car and the game Spot it for Christmas. Love them both! Our driveway is long and downhill so we're loving the plasma car - even me!

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  33. This sounds like one for my book list this year. Its good to start off the year with a good book.

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  34. Adding this to my "to read" list. I've read some good ones that you have posted :)

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  35. One of my fav books ever! My grandmother bought me my copy twenty years ago and I still cherish it!

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  36. I got the book at the library after your recommendation. I'm a chapter or two in and I'm not sure about it. I don't like the "dialect" the characters are speaking in. I don't think she's done a very good job of it! I'll try to keep reading after all this praise on your blog, but I'm just not sure. I usually love this type of book, and your book recommendations are the best. I LOVED Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan, which I read after you listed it. I'll keep trying!

    p.s. Willa Cather's My Antonia is one of my top ten favorites. If you haven't read it, you should!

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  37. I need a good fiction read this January. We've been hit with bugs and cold weather and it would do my soul good to be deep in a book. I was intrigued by the excerpt and looked it up. Although I much prefer a book in my hand - you may want to know that they have available to read online as well. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500521h.html

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  38. So glad you found this beautiful book. I love all of Bess Streeter Aldrich's books and this is one of my favorites. You must definitely read "A White Bird Flying" soon. It takes place after "A Lantern in Her Hand" and follows the story of one of Abby's grand-daughters. It's wonderful and even though you shouldn't read the end of the book first, the last part of the book is one of the most memorable ones I've ever read.

    I read both of these books, as well as her beautiful tragedy "Spring Came On Forever" every few years. They're good for my soul.

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  39. Oh, how I love this book! LizzyP, you DEFINITELY need to re-read it now as a mother. I read it in high school, and it was a favorite even back then. But I re-read it this fall...omg, I bawled hysterical, sobbing, tears throughout the thing. I was a horrible mess.

    Also, have you heard the song? I killed myself googling, trying to find the melody. I finally came up with this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86DaH-d9Tl4
    You must watch it. It's a beautiful, haunting melody.

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  40. Loved this book! My Mother in law just gave it to me to read this fall. It is one of her favorites. I was wondering why I have never heard of Bess Streeter Aldrich before??!! I absolutely loved it!

    I then read the next book, A White Bird Flying, which was good but not quite as captivating as A Lantern in Her Land. It's a continuation of the story.

    Then I read another of Aldrich's book--Spring Came on Forever. Set at the same time frame, different characters and a sort of different story, but awesome. You might like that one too.

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  41. Sarah, I'm not sure if you will ever read this comment but I simply couldn't let the opportunity pass - I feel as though we may have been cut from the same cloth. I'm older than you, and I have 7 daughters and 1 son and as of last Dec. 13th my husband & I have 13 grandchildren. My third daughter,Sara sent me a link to a recent post of yours about Seaside. Our first trip to Seaside was in 1994. Our youngest daugher, Molly was 2 - she's now a freshman in college- and considers this town her second home. Seaside had a water tower on our first trip, Watercolor didn't exist, nor did the large houses along the beach...it was a dream come true for our family. Our oldest daughter was married in the Seaside chapel in 2004...so many memories. I sent your link on to some of my other kids - a little summer to warm our January hearts- and another daughter called a few minutes later to tell me about a later post on your blog. Your favorite book...A Lantern In Her Hand! I first read this book when I was in 8th grade and have continued reading it over the years. In fact, the first excerpt you posted is from what I call the "Christmas chapter" and I actually copied this chapter several years ago, rolled it up and tied it with a red ribbon and gave it to my husband as a Christmas gift...it is an ornament on our tree every christmas.
    I've given the book to each of my daughters after they were married, usually as a Christmas gift. A few months after I had given it to my oldest daughter, I received a call from her while she was waiting on a flight one day, she said "You're
    Abby Deal, Mom - I get it!!" In so many ways, I do feel like Abby, differnt century, different trials but so many things are the same.
    Well, I wanted to share this with you, so many times in life we pass by people, that for whatever reason, you feel a connection with - and you wish you had said something...I did :)

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  42. After reading your comments about A Lantern in her Hand... I picked up a copy at our library and devoured it in a few short days though the writing was so beautiful that I tried to read it slow and enjoy it! Thank you for recommending it and for introducing it to me... what a beautiful and wonderful book. I, too, have ordered a copy for myself and look forward to reading it again.
    Thank you!

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  43. I just finished crying my way through this book. Loved it! I am grateful that you shared this recommendation. Abbie Deal is an inspiration. She did her duty, loved her children, and was truly grateful, not envious, that they had greater opportunities than she did.

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