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O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

If you enjoy reading historical fiction, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel may intrigue you.  The setting is Nebraska during the o pioneerspioneer days of the late 19th century.  Cather, born in 1873, arrived in that state with her family at the age of nine and loved to observe the lifestyles of the pioneers living around her.  This makes her novel a picture of life in that time and place from a great writer who lived there!

Alexandra Bergson, a Swedish girl, grows up to become a successful farmer and landowner.  Her main interest is to provide the opportunity for her much younger brother, Emil, to gain an education and to pursue any career that appeals to him.  The book also depicts families who, defeated by the dry weather, give up on farming in that area.  The plot includes love stories – and a dramatic crime!

This novel especially resonated with me, since my grandfather and his family arrived in Nebraska in an ox-drawn covered wagon in 1878.  Born in 1874, he was a contemporary of Cather’s, although they lived in different parts of the state.  This discovery reminded me that it’s especially fascinating to read historical fiction set in areas where one’s own family members have lived!

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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