Mr. Graham's Reviews > The Land Breakers

The Land Breakers by John Ehle
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Jan 10, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in January, 2011

** spoiler alert ** The Land Breakers is a work of historical fiction that tells of several groups of people who set out to make a settlement in pioneer North Carolina. It is a tale of hardships and troubles. A story of longing for family and community. It tells of a life so full of fruitless toil and disappointment, that I wonder why we would ever complain at all.

Four days travel from the nearest town, the settlement is not the land of choice. It's not the the dream that they wanted. It's what they had to settle for. The story tells of a life that is filled with what the characters had to settle for. The deaths and ramblings of spouses and children present a hard life, and one the characters are forced to deal with many miles from anything.

The story is filled with characters who are young and starting out, and spend years of hopes and dreams and hard work, only to be disappointed in the end. It has characters who are old and have spent their lives seeking something they were never able to find. The one character who amassed any sort of wealth did so at the expense of every relationship he ever desired.

Of all the characters, one old couple, Jacob and Florence, were the ones who found true happiness. They never had much. They never lived in a nice place. But they loved each other. They had a great son that went out to seek adventure on his own. They were kind and generous. They were content with what they had in a land that took so much and gained so little. They had family and they had community.

At its root that what this book is about. It's about family and community. Through it all, the characters desired family and community. They didn't know how to go about seeking these things. There were very few choices. The young men and women had little to choose from to get married. As far as community, there were only about six or seven families in the settlement.

The climax of the story is the drive. They all decide to drive their cattle, sheep, turkeys, geese, and hogs to town. It's a difficult quest, and one that requires true community. The family dynamics and the inability to work together prove disastrous on the first day. When the drive fails and all of their wealth is lost, they go back to their homes and seek to build it all again.

The Land Breakers is all about the characters. It's about the need in every man and woman to have family and community. It's about the pride and ignorance in every person that sabotage the very things they long for. It's about the imperfect circumstances with which we try to make it all happen. And it's about how the human spirit somehow keeps pushing on even when it's all lost. Great story.
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