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"Almost-spinster schoolteacher Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell married Otis Churchill on a Michigan farm in 1857. Her real-life journal recounts two years of homesteading, history hints at the next six decades, and the novel explores the truth. We meet Rosette in 1888 as she revises the wedding-day page of her journal. In lush detail, in the voices of Rosette and others, the novel traces how we both choose and suffer our destiny, how hopes come to naught and sometimes rise from the wreckage."
All novels are a labour of love, especially independently published novels, and this one takes that a little further being the story of the author's ancestor, derived from diaries and other records found by the family.
Rosette's story is one that must have played out hundreds of times to hundreds of girls, a story of growing up and living in the 'wild west' on land that was newly reclaimed from nature in small, close-knit communities that had to cooperate to survive. Drama was breaking a cart and helping each other was a matter of course. Laura Ingalls Wilder would recognise this world and feel at home here.
Although this is a story that is far from unique, what we have here is a valuable piece of social history in that is has survived to be re-told. Ingalls Wilder wrote her own story, and so did Rosette, but not for the consumption of anyone other than her own family, and as such, she didn't explain the everyday terms and words that she uses, which is why the author does that for us.
The style that this novel is written in reflects the style of that diary, it is not a 'he said, she said' scene by scene tale of adventure or derring-do with a plot building chapter by chapter, but this is a more re-telling style, recounting life as seen through the eyes of the characters. Because of that you never really get into the head of each character, but you do get a good sense of how the main protagonists are viewed by those around them.
A gentle story of family life in an era where life was hard and yet simple pleasures mean everything. A wonderful snapshot into a lost world.
© Nicky Galliers
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