***My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)

Since My Antonia is one of my all-time favorites, I’ve already written a review of it, but having read it again this summer, I must write about it again because new things jump out at me each time I read this book.  First of all, I always read the Houghton Mifflin version because of the gorgeous picture on the front: the plow in the field of wheat and wild flowers with the sun setting behind it.  When I think of this story, that’s the image that stays in my head.  Because Antonia was the inspiration behind naming my daughter Annie (Brian agreed to Anne but not Antonia), it goes without saying that I admire this character above so many other literary greats.  She’s hard working, humble, energetic, positive, and above all, she seems to have no regrets.  She simply makes the most of every situation no matter how dire it is.  When her family first moves to the Nebraska prairie from Bohemia, they live in a cave and Antonia sleeps in a hole dug out of the wall. She plows fields, she grieves for her father who was never cut out for prairie life and takes his own life because of it, she’s deserted by her would-be husband leaving her single and pregnant, and she’s dirt poor through most of her life.  Yet she smiles, dances, laughs, grabs a picnic opportunity when she can, and seems to skate through the hard stuff.  By the end of the novel, she’s the mother of oodles of well behaved kids who adore her, and her eyes and her outlook seem brighter than ever.  It makes me realize how much more positive and gracious I could be.  And then there’s Cather’s beautiful writing.  Here she describes the mood after Pavel (of Peter and Pavel, the Russian guys) fell ill: “Misfortune seemed to settle like an evil bird on the roof of the log house, and to slap its wings there, warning human beings away” (35).  That’s the kind of description we all strive for.  (fiction)

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