Paige’s Picks

I am becoming an insatiable Willa Cather fan.

I read “My Antonia” first, and I was caught in her beautifully-written and wheaty web of words. Rarely have I read the work of an author who embodies the spirit of the American Plains like she does.

“O Pioneers!” completely carried me away. Every word is laced with visions of dark, fertile earth of golden corn and flaxen wheat.

 The title was borrowed from a poem by Walt Whitman and it enhances the heartbeat and storyline of “O Pioneers!”

 It is noted in the forward that many American novels begin with a hero on a farm, but most do not stay there long. In the grand tradition, the hero grows up always hoping and dreaming about something else in another place. This is not the path Cather takes with her heroine.  Alexandra Bergson presides over her land like the modern equivalent of the Greek goddess Demeter. She is the living embodiment of harvest, toil and forward thinking.

You feel her unmistakable drive, her lack of time for imagination and love of the land that will cause her to be successful where all others have failed.

 Cather’s novels have been named one of the greatest feminist novels. Her male characters don’t seem to have the backbone and elemental power that her females do. Her ladies are not secondary players in her novels; rather, they are the heroes and are not at all helpless damsels.

 I think “O Pioneers!” has it all – family strife and struggle, forbidden love, culture clash and a moving landscape. These are characters and circumstances that I can relate to, even though I have never farmed or owned land. It awakened a desire to have something of my own. For now, I’ll settle for reading this book again and again.