This book was a real eye-opener for me because, while I have read many books about people pitted against the elements, this book dealt with a time and situation I had never read about before; namely, a lone African-American family surviving as homesteaders during the pioneering days. It was quite a emotional story for me because I felt I could relate to Rachel both as a mother and as a wife, and I found that despite the vast differences in our situations and living arrangements, the protectiveness and hope she felt for her children was something I can imagine any mother would relate to. While I was reading, I was trying to put myself in Rachel’s shoes, watching her children walk around in ragged clothes and begging for water with tongues horribly swollen from dehydration. It was not only a story that provided a glimpse into the life of a pioneer but ultimately a story of survival and sacrifice that was hard to distance myself from. Weisgarber’s writing felt intimately personal and resonant, and Rachel’s voice captivated me from very early on.
I can’t say I liked or respected her husband, Issac, very much though. It was clear the land and his property was his first and only concern. Though he was at times loving and kind to his children, I felt as if they and Rachel were only possessions to him that he did with as he saw fit. Don’t get me wrong, Issac wasn’t abusive but he was hard and uncompromising. I found his actions to be unloving in the extreme and I grew frustrated with his inability to understand what was best for his wife and children. Issac seemed to think of Rachel and the children as workhorses who existed to make his land more profitable, and it was his lack of attentiveness and care that put Rachel and the children’s lives in danger time and again. I found him repugnant, and mentally veered between wanting him to change his mind about things and wanting him to just go away. Rachel was always mentally battling herself against negative feelings for Issac, and I could understand that. Such was the believability of this tale that at first I found her struggles to be perfectly valid. Later, I grew frustrated that she let herself be overtaken by Issac and began rooting for her to take a stand.
This book is truly unique because while there exist many books about the pioneering lifestyle, this one focused on what it was like for an African-American family. I can’t say there was much prejudice against them in the badlands and I think that was mainly because there were so few families that could survive the crushing droughts and forbidding winters. It was also interesting that during this time, while there was immense prejudice against blacks in the cities, Issac had an unswerving hatred for the Native Americans who roamed the land. It seemed sort of counter intuitive and was definitely ironic, that this man who would have been subjected to hatred by whites during that period in time was living his own life of intolerance and ignorance against a group of people who had been marginalized and subjugated. Weisgarber does a great job of elucidating this without hitting the reader over the head with it, and I think this and other pertinent plot points were written with a deft hand and clear eye.
This was a very emotional read for me because there was an emotional resonance and power to Rachel’s thoughts that matured throughout the story and created scenes that were not only significantly powerful, but also enabled the reader to truly become invested in Rachel’s plight. I loved this book, not only for its raw power, but for the emotions it elicited in me. A great read that was not only introspective and deep, but also carefully crafted and rich. Recommended.
About the Author|
Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She was a social worker before earning a Master’s degree in sociology at the University of Houston and becoming a teacher. She divides her time between Sugar Land and Galveston, Texas.
Visit Ann at her website.
|A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.