Friday, March 29, 2013

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

For my final review this week I am breaking my own rule.  If you try to check out this book you will see that it is well over 200 pages but that is because it is a collection of Willa Cather’s early novels.  If you check the table of contents for O Pioneers! however, you will find that it is only 151 pages.  Phew!  Theme preserved.
O Pioneers! is the story of Alexandra Bergson.  The Bergsons are farmers in Nebraska at the beginning of the twentieth century.  As the story opens all of the farms in the area are failing due to poor weather and John Bergson, the patriarch of the family, is dying.  He leaves Alexandra in charge of the farm and she distinguishes herself by not selling off the homestead and giving up as most families are at the time and instead she convinces her brothers to help her mortgage the farm so they can purchase even more of the surrounding land.
Alexandra is one of the strongest characters you will ever encounter and not because she is a woman doing a job usually done by men in her time but because she is patient and smart and forgiving.  Alexandra’s brothers are impetuous and quick to judge; her youngest brother, Emil, is spoiled and aimless and hopelessly in love with a married woman.  In each challenge she faces, Alexandra determines the best course of action and sticks to it even when those around her doubt her ability.  In Alexandra, Cather wrote a character that is as impressive and timeless as the landscape she so lovingly depicts.  The only question about Alexandra is whether she will ever realize that at some point she must pursue her own happiness in addition to securing the well-being of her family and friends.
For more Willa Cather try My Antonia another novel of her Great Plains Trilogy.  If you would like a longer story of life in the West you can read Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

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