Forgotten Children’s Classics Make for Great Summer Reads Pt. 2

The second book I have recently enjoyed is also a work of classic historical fiction but so different in its scope.  A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich was first published in 1928.  The age of the book is evident in its rambling, amateur style, with nearly every sentence, it seems, beginning with the words “And then…”.  I was well into the book before I saw the point of it, but when I did, I found it to be insightful and brilliant.

It is the story of fictional pioneer mother Abbie Deal, who as Will Deal’s new wife, moves with him to the Nebraska frontier of the 1850s.  Where the wonderful Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder tell of frontier life through the eyes of a little girl, A Lantern in Her Hand shows the point of view of a mother whose adult struggles and concerns go largely unnoticed by her children.  When she was young, Abbie dreamed of excelling in the arts.  She has the voice of a songbird, a passion for painting and capturing her landscape observations on canvas.  But life gets in the way; goals are put off and later forgotten as she and Will work side by side to carve out a farm on the prairie and build a community that may someday provide the opportunities that so eluded her as a girl.

When her children grow up to know the good life and to develop the talents their mother never had the chance to use, they never really realize how much she gave up for them.  We, as reader, are in the enviable position of viewing an entire life from beginning to end, a perspective we would rarely observe in real life.  Adults and children may be gently reminded that inside every elderly woman or man, a young, idealistic person used to be.  And in reading about Abbie, we know that a young heart still exists that wants to sing on the top of a windy knoll.  I can highly recommend this book for its wonderful perspective.

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