Bess Streeter Aldrich
Puffin Books
First Released 1928

When A Lantern in Her Hand came out in 1928, critics took little notice, but people everywhere soon discovered it. By the end of 1919, even as the Great Depression set in, Bess Streeter Aldrich's novel was in its twenty-first printing. Now translated into over twenty languages, A Lantern in Her Hand has outlasted literary fashions to touch generations of readers. It is the classic story of a pioneer woman. Bess Streeter Aldrich knew what she was writing about. Her protagonist, a strong-minded pioneer woman named Abbie Deal, was modeled on her own mother, who in 1854 had traveled by covered wagon to the Midwest. In A Lantern in Her Hand, Abbie accompanies her family to the soon-to-be state of Nebraska. There, in 1865, she marries and settles into a sod house of her own. The novel describes Abbie's years of child-raising, of making a frontier home able to withstand every adversity. A disciplined writer knowledgeable about true stories of pioneer days in Nebraska, Bess Streeter Aldrich conveys the strength of everyday things, the surprise of familiar faces, and the look of the unspoiled landscape during different seasons. Refusing to be broken by hard experience, Abbie sets a joyful example for her family - and for her readers. (from Goodreads)

I'm getting educated on Nebraska, my current dwelling place, and a friend loaned me this book. It reminds me of Little House on the Prairie in its content and writing style, and it gave me a keener appreciation for the original settlers of the Great Plains who suffered so much in their efforts to co-exist with the land.

I enjoyed Aldrich's motherly point of view, the reminders of how time flies and how loving intensely can also crush a person. And I enjoyed learning about the values and ideals of the pioneer generation: so thrifty, dignified, and hard-working.

What I didn't enjoy was the pacing. At several points in the book when momentous things happen the author builds up to an event and then passes by it as if it's not really important after all. She might spend a page or two describing wedding gifts but just a couple of very short paragraphs on the death of a major character.

I found out that Aldrich's historic home is a mere 28 minutes from my own, and it's open for visitors. I think I might go take a peek.


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