Throw Back Review: A Lantern in Her Hand

February 19, 2015


Every Thursday I want to feature a “throw back” review from my old blog.  I have so many books that I posted and loved on my old reading spot. I’m throwing back to join them all together.

A Latern in her Hand
Bess Streeter Aldrich

256 pages
Hard copy edition
First read November 2007

From the Publisher:
After marrying Will Deal and moving to Nebraska, Abbie endures the difficulties of frontier life and raises her children to pursue the ambitions that were once her own.


November 8, 2007
I started this book about a year ago for a book club at my 
church and although all the members of the club were raving about it, I couldn’t get myself to finish it. I finally picked it up this past weekend and was able to finish it in 3 days – and the only thing I can think of is I must have been reading a very fast pace exciting novel before this when I first attempted to read it.

Needless to say I loved it this time around. (I must be in a better mood as well!) The story follows the life of Abbie Mackenzie Deal. She marries the love of her life, Will Deal and they move to settle “out west” in Nebraska. While Abbie has dreams, she is also a mother. After reading this book I couldn’t help but appreciate my own mother more. I am also inspired to become a better mother to my little family.

I found myself wanting to highlight or dog-ear some passages in the book. Here are some of my favorite parts:

Abbie has just recovered from losing her infant son. She comes to terms with it and looks around and sees her little family. She has so many dreams for her little children,
“You shall wear them, darling. Some day you shall. We’re going to make it come true. We’ve got to make it come true.” She caught Margaret to her. “It takes faith and courage and love and prayer and work and little singing to keep up your spirits, but we’re going to do it.”

Abbie is speaking to her daughter, who has just informed her that she will forgo motherhood to pursue a singing career,
“But, Isabelle, if people waited to be rich to have children. If we!…Oh, Isabelle! You’d make me laugh if I didn’t feel so like crying. Can’t afford it? How can you afford to miss it….little children…their soft warm bodies and their little clinging hands…their cunning ways..miss motherhood?”

After her daughter Grace has just told her she is narrow for not having traveled, Abbie answers her,
“You know, Grace, it’s queer, but I don’t feel narrow. I feel broad. How can I explain it t you, so you would understand? I’ve sen everything…and I’ve hardly been away from this yard. I’ve seen cathedrals in the snow on the Lombardy poplars. I’ve seen the sun set behind the Alps over there when the clouds have been piled up on the edge of theprairie. I’ve seen the ocean billows in the rise and fall of the prairie grass. I’ve seen history in the making…three ugly wars flair up and die down. I’ve sent a lover and two brothers to one, a son and son-in-law to another, and two grandsons to the other. I’ve seen feeble beginnings of a raw state and the civilization that developed there, and I’ve been part of the beginning and part of the growth. I’ve married…and borne children and looked into the face of death. Is childbirth narrow, Grace? Or marriage? Or death? When you’ve experience all those things, Grace, the spirit has traveled although the body has been confined. I think travel is a rare privilege and I’m glad you can have it. But not every one who stays at home is narrow and not every one who travels is broad. I think if you can understand humanity…can sympathize with every creature..can put yourself into the personality of every one…you’re not narrow…you’re broad.”

Updated Review:
I couldn’t get this book out of my mind after thinking about nap times this week and my post about winters in Iowa.  This is one of my favorite books and authors.  I might have to revisit this book and reread it.  If you love historical (Midwest/pioneer) fiction, Bess Streeter Aldrich is a great place to start.

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