Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fictional Ancestor

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich was wonderful!

I first found this book in the catalog from Emmanuel Books (I told Kansas Dad I want to order everything they carry) and was pleasantly surprised to find A Bess Streeter Aldrich Treasury on my bookshelf, inherited from my grandmother.

This book follows the life of Abbie Mackenzie Deal, and with it the story of the pioneers of Iowa and Nebraska. She marries just after the Civil War and soon finds herself a mother to one with one on the way in a sod house in Nebraska with three families as "neighbors." I couldn't help but compare myself to her and found myself sorely lacking in patience, strength and courage. Imagine living in a two room sod house for years!

In this book, we watch Abbie and her family grow along with Nebraska and the country. She lives long enough to see her children and grandchildren prosper and enjoy the kind of culture she desired but always deferred, sacrificing her wants for a better future for them. She sees everything arrive in Nebraska, from the very first settlers to airplanes. Her children travel even farther.

The author's style moves quickly over years then slows down for a space, telling some episodes in greater detail. It made me think of how so many of the parenting years are made up of the daily tasks of preparing meals and washing clothes. She could flit over them in a few paragraphs, but at the end of Abbie's life, those are the days she remembers with the greatest joy: her husband coming in after a full day in the field, dinner just ready to set on the table, the laughter and yells of her children outside in the prairie grass.

I've already read through much of the Treasury and, so far, A Lantern in Her Hand is my favorite. I don't really want to rush these years when my little ones are little, but I eagerly anticipate the days I'll be able to share this book with my own children.


  1. I am really amazed at how much reading you do. How do you have the time?

  2. I'm not sure! When Second Daughter was younger, I read a lot while she nursed, but now she likes to play with the book (and doesn't nurse for very long at a time). Sometimes I read while the kids are playing, until they come over and ask me to read aloud.

    I have to admit, sometimes I tell First Son he has to entertain himself during quiet time so I can finish a book. I justify it to myself because it's good for him to see me reading (which it is) and it's good for him to entertain himself (which it is), but I do try not to do that every day.


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