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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.”