Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book review: Nothing to Do But Stay by Carrie Young

A friend told me a few months back that if I liked Laura Ingalls Wilder (and do I ever!) then I really ought to read this book, which is the author's memoir mostly about her mother, who was a homesteader in North Dakota in 1905.

The book is divided into sections, and each section is basically a stand-alone essay. So there's one section all about Norwegian-North Dakotan hospitality and foods, one about her Uncle Ole, but my favorite was the first and longest section, about her mother deciding to take a homestead, marrying in her mid-30s and promptly having 6 children, and as one of those children, what the author's life was like growing up during the Depression, even having to spend winters sleeping in the one-room schoolhouse where her sister taught because the weather was too severe for their father to drive them to and from, even on the weekends. The siblings each paid for each others' education which was really great, although I was sad when the oldest sibling who did end up getting the most education (after getting her bachelor's in education she went back to school for a nursing degree in WWII), ended up getting married and quitting work to stay at home. The author seemed disappointed about that as well, which was a refreshing perspective during a fairly traditional time.

Their time on the prairie, while at times not easy, was never terrible. They made it through the Depression, rarely got in debt, supported each other, and had a great extended community of Norwegian-Americans (and the occasional Swede). It's a nice and light book, not telling dark tales of a rough time in our history. If you're looking for a memoir with a through-thread of narrative, this will disappoint, so be prepared for that. But it's a great slice of life from a time and place we don't know much about in our nation's past.

I checked this book out of the library.

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