Monday, June 25, 2018

Two Pioneer Books

We have been without internet/phone/TV for NINE days.  Our router blew out in a thunderstorm Saturday night a week ago.  Supposedly AT&T "overnights" a new router/modem when these things happen.  Yes, they overnighted it - mailed on a Friday and we received on a Monday morning - but the entire process didn't start until after six days after we called.  And of course we received the run-around every time we called.  IF, that is, we could understand the service representative.

Anyway, the up side was - I did a lot more reading than usual.  Which was a good thing.  Two of the books I read were pioneer books.  Giants In The Earth was recommended on Good Reads as a good fictional example of non-varnished pioneer life.  It is a thick book - 453 pages - and translated from Norwegian.  Several families went way out into Nebraska and fought their way against the land, the weather, the grasshoppers, and the loneliness.  And yes, it is a non-varnished account, but hard to put down.   It's primarily the story of Olé and his wife Beret, but the other families figure in as well.  Life was hard.  They were unsure of their religion as well, which made life even harder.  Beret fought crippling depression.  As the book progressed, things got better, but I found the ending to be strangely unsatisfying.

Over the weekend I read O Pioneers, the classic by Willa Cather.  I'd not read any of her novels - just a short story each year in 11th grade English, but felt a connection because two years ago, when we went to Grand Manan for our puffin cruise, the place where we stayed for two nights was her summer haunt for many years.  She actually built her own summer place on this property.

View from our duplex on Grand Manan.  Cather built her own home off to the right of this photo (not visible  - hidden in the woods from all the other cabins).)
O Pioneers is the story of Alexandra, a strong female protagonist, who inherits the family farm to manage.  Her brothers are not as capable as she, although she is careful to include them in the decisions and the eventual splitting of the property.  She is able to do much better with her share than they are with theirs.  A younger brother is spoiled by Alexandra.  It's another novel that gives a realistic picture of Nebraska pioneer life.  Part of the plot does involve an affair; it's not gratuitous and it's not graphic.  But it's there.  I feel like I have a better understanding now of Cather and her work.

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