Saturday, August 6, 2011

Loula Grace Erdman - An Author I Have Really Enjoyed

I've never been a big fan of much fiction. That is to say, fiction that is lacking in its construction - poorly developed characters or a weak plot or a not-very-worthy theme. There are fewer fiction pieces that I like than dislike.

Loula Grace Erdman is a name that became familiar to me when I gave a nonfiction book by her, Life Was Simpler Then, to my great-aunt Louise in the '70s. It was a good book describing life in the '30s and '40s for small-town Missourians. I recognized her name, that she also wrote a good book about teaching called Separate Star. Then, at our public library and also my college library, I stumbled across more books by her. Loula Grace Erdman may not be hugely well known, or assigned the title "great writer," but she turned out some excellent work that is worth the reader's time. I've re-read several of her books a number of times, because each re-reading gives up new details or twists that weren't obvious earlier - which is one of the marks of a good piece of fiction.

I've also learned much history from them. She wrote primarily about the homesteaders of northern Texas and everyday life in late 19th and early 20th century Missouri; she also wrote a couple of books with information of Order Number Eleven, a Civil War order that displaced many innocent Missourians due to the border conflicts between Missouri and Kansas. I had never heard of that order, but her book Another Spring will open the reader's eyes to that terrible time period in a way that nonfiction does not.

Her work can be found on eBay and internet bookstores, which is where I found most of my collection about ten years ago. Some of her children's books, and one adult novel, The Edge of Time, are still in print, but most are not. Most of her books available today are books pulled from library shelves as rejects, because her style of writing doesn't fit the modern parameters of books printed and read today. They are full of detail and heavy on good characterization. And though they are not prudish, they do not contain objectionable elements when dealing with sinful behavior.

My evaluation/opinion:


The Years of the Locust - Winner of an award in the 1940s for fiction, that carried a large monetary award. Very unusual format - flashback about the lives of a patriarch couple in a community, told after their deaths.

The Edge of Time - Still in print. Story of a homesteading couple that drove from Missouri to Texas to live in a dugout. The hardships were unbelievable. Makes the reader think about what our forefathers went through to open up the boundaries of the country and to live free and independently.

Three at the Wedding - Erdman thought that this was her best work of characterization, and I agree, even though this book is not as well known as some of her other novels. The story of three women at the same wedding, all of whom loved the same man at different times of their lives, and how they all came to be at the same wedding. The reader really sees the hardness of the bride's mother, and the hometown simplicity of the stepmother. I didn't care as much for the story of the third woman whose story is told, but the interplay between the other characters, as well as the way it all draws together at the end, is great reading.


Another Spring - The story of families displaced by Order Number Eleven at the end of the Civil War. This book will really cause the reader to become aware of what it would be like to literally have to scrounge for food, clothing, and everything else needed for life, because of being run out of one's home with no opportunity to take much along.

The Far Journey - Story of a woman who almost loses her marriage due to her reluctance to go west with her husband, then makes the trip out to Texas (with their young son) to join him. The events that happen to her during the trip, and the way it all works out at the end, make for very good reading. The theme of how she comes to see her error of not supporting her husband is seen throughout the book.

Lonely Passage - Story of the coming of age of a young girl growing up in a family of strong women. One of the most interesting parts of this book is how the weakest woman of the group eventually transforms into the strongest. This is a book which shows well how Erdman handles sin issues without having to resort to objectionable elements.

Separate Star - Book about a teacher in a small-town school in the middle of the 20th century. Any teacher will recognize the challenges this teacher faces. She is an excellent, caring teacher, and it is a good story. Since it was written for teen girls, it does include the obligatory romance, which is not characteristic of the other books.


These are only about half of her books; they are the ones that I think are the best. I didn't care as much for her children's books; but then, I didn't spend as much time on them either.

Loula Grace Erdman died in 1976. I think her work represents a good, clean, author who wrote fiction that is much more uplifting than some of the things available today.


Beth said...

Good to know as I don't think I've read any of these. I will search ebay. Thanks!

Ann said...

Beth - I think you'd like her. I think it was when we were roommates that I discovered her books in the library.