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Trials of the Earth: The True Story of a Pioneer Woman

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,230 ratings  ·  360 reviews
The astonishing first-person account of a Mississippi pioneer woman struggling to survive, protect her family and make a home in the early American South.

Near the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton (1866-1936) began recording her experiences in the backwoods of the Mississippi Delta. The result is this astonishing first-person account of a pioneer woman who braved gruelin
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published July 12th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company (first published October 1992)
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Gail Strickland Nope,but you need to read it anyway. The mystery takes nothing away from the main story which of one woman's struggle to find a home of her own.

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Diane S ☔
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mary Hamilton is a truly remarkable woman, not well known, not famous but remarkable all the same. So glad her story has at last been published. One of the first women to homestead in the Mississippi Delta, was there when the Parchment prison system was started. My goodness but this woman lived what seems like many lives. Worked to incredibly hard, first feeding many in the camps, then the fields, bore seven children, though all did not live, picked, built, canned, sewed, anything to insure the ...more

Mary Mann Hamilton wrote only one book, but even though she and her book are virtually forgotten, they both deserve to be remembered.

One of my favorite novels of last year – or any year, for that matter – was "The Tall Woman" by Wilma Dykeman. Set in the Appalachians in North Carolina it is the story of one woman’s struggle to cope with the trials and tribulations of a pioneer woman during the Civil War and its aftermath.

Recently, I finished "Trials of the Earth" about another pioneer wo
Heidi The Reader
Trials of the Earth is Mary Mann Hamilton's memoir about her hardscrabble life in America during the late 1800's.

She uses period speech to illuminate a life of struggle and hard work. If certain anachronistic and racially insensitive terms bother you, especially the casual use of the N-word, you may want to chose another memoir. It was shocking but I kept reminding myself that Mary was a product of her times.

On top of the constant struggle of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over her
Diane Barnes
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is not one of those lyrical, beautifully written family sagas. It is more of a I was there, this is what I saw and heard, this is what happened kind of book. Still, it is beautiful for that very reason. Mary Mann married at 18 to Frank Hamilton, an English man running from something in his past. He never told her what or why. They married in Arkansas and moved to the Mississippi Delta region in the late 1800's. Hard work and deprivation was a given, as was saying good-bye to people and ...more
Joy D
Trials of the Earth is the autobiography of Mary Mann Hamilton, born in Arkansas around 1866. Her family ran a boarding house, where she met and married one of the guests, an Englishman with a mysterious past. After marrying, she and husband Frank moved to Missouri and then to Mississippi, where the majority of the story is set. They lived and worked near logging camps, and later switched to farming.

I value this book for its historical significance. It is a time capsule of sorts and would make
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Trials of the Earth by Maary Hamilton

Today seems like a great day to write a review for this book,, because it is pouring down rain, and in just a few hours we have already had 4 inches of rain. So, I don’t see myself going outside since our book group has been cancelled due to flooding.

Our rain is much like the rain that Mary Hamilton had experienced while living in the Mississippi Delta. It caused her home to be flooded and destroyed. Only the rain she experienced lasted more than a few hours
Nov 11, 2016 rated it liked it
My reaction to this book is somewhere between liking it and thinking it was OK. I will explain why.

I am glad the book has been published, now 83 years after its conception and through the efforts of the author's descendants. Its value lies in providing a record of the author's memories as a female pioneer in Arkansas and on the Mississippi Delta in the late 1800s. She was born in 1866. Her life illustrates not just her incredibly hard life but also the lives of other women of that time and plac
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the caliber of book that I appreciate the most, and I'm grateful for my GR friends, two especially, who lead me to this non-fiction of Mary Hamilton recounting her married years in the late 19th and earliest 20th centuries.

She marries from circumstance, and her life for 30 years follows from circumstance. Her husband is described to every inch of grabbing the essence of his spirit, mind, and every emotive peculiarity. From Arkansas hill backs to Mississippi Delta flats and back. Regardl
``Laurie Henderson
I read this book over 15 years ago so my memory is a little vague about some parts of it but I do remember being enthralled by Mary Mann Hamilton's true account of pioneer life in the Mississippi Delta.

Before the Delta became famous for its fertile, cotton growing soil it was a dense wooded forest that took several years to clear.

The Hamilton's were of humble means and hoped to improve their life by moving to the delta where Mr. Hamilton worked felling the huge trees. Mrs. Hamilton brings all
Eliza Crewe
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow, highly recommend.
Susan Johnson
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A memoir about a woman who lived a tough life at the end of the nineteenth century. She had and lost a lot of babies. She helped support her alcoholic husband by cooking for lots of men in boarding houses. I liked this part as my grandmother was a cook at a boarding house in the oil fields after her first husband died. This woman worked her fingers to the bone and dealt with a lot of tragedy. I am glad I live when I do now. Life is so much easier.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I don't think I would have chosen this book on my own but I heard a review of it on Fresh Air and I knew I had to read it. Maureen Corrigan's article describes it better than I ever could:
I listened to the audiobook version and it was very good. Mary's grit and determination made an impression on me, and her plain-spoken yet eloquently-told life story is sure to linger in my thoughts for quite some time.
An entertaining, unique read that left me wanting several things, the first being a simple map. Easily rectified by pulling one up online, but, still ...
Next: images, which seem to be strangely lacking online, considering the enormous interest in the book.
Finally (and foremost), a solution to the mystery surrounding Frank's background. As with maps and images, the internet is swarming with geneaology sites, so I'm left wondering why readers aren't given details on what may have been discovered
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Trials of the Earth is the story of a remarkable woman who was a pioneer and early settler in the south. Encouraged to write this book as she neared the end of her life, Mary Mann Hamilton shares with the reader her story of survival through the deaths of children, floods, tornadoes, and all of the pain and hardship that a woman would deal with during that time. Also, throughout the book, is the thread of who her husband really is, where did he come from, and why don't he ever discuss it. This i ...more
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
I realize this is autobiographical, but it was a bit too far out there for me. Reading about the hardships and life as a pioneer was interesting, but it seemed to cross over to ridiculousness the number of times this family cycled between wealth and neediness. Never being able to make sound decisions to break the cycle. Most unbelievable was the dialog from the children who acted clairvoyant the majority of the time. It is staggering to learn how people lived during these times, but this book st ...more
Charles Haywood
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
St. Paul says in Second Thessalonians (or as Donald Trump would have it, “Two Thessalonians”), “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” This seems old-fashioned, even unfair to some. But not so long ago, what St. Paul said was literally true for most Americans, and merely an accepted fact of life, not an imposition by society. “Trials Of The Earth” is a vivid reminder of that time, and a chronicle of human strength and self-reliance in response.

“Trials Of The Earth” is quite similar in th
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Mary Mann Hamilton (1866-c.1936) was encouraged to write down her memories of being a female pioneer in the Mississippi Delta. She writes in her own voice about a life that modern day readers have no concept of, and might even find a bit fabricated but it's all true. From a manuscript that surfaced more than a half century after it was written, this book has been published before (1992, 2013) but is just now getting the attention that it deserves. Mary writes about living in Arkansas in the earl ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Totally mesmerizing! One scene was SO gripping, my heart nearly stopped!!! It STILL does when I think about it! The 'translators' did a remarkable job of taking the raw script into a flowing narrative without losing the naturalness or uniqueness of place and time. Absolutely puts you in the early pioneer hardships of weather, adequate food, shelter, and never-ending, universal crime...just basic survival to the exclusion of much leisure or down time. Death from a myriad of freak occurrences alwa ...more
Karen Oury
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trials of the Earth: The true story of a Pioneer Woman

This Mary Ann Hamilton is a remnant of a bygone era. A woman of true grit, loyal to the core of her being, to her husband and children. A hard working woman of faith and values, who pushes on thru hardships & death. A "can do" , rise above woman that her descendants can be very proud
to claim as their ancestor who helped pave the way. A good read that shows todays women how easy we have it.
Laura King
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Gave me a lot of perspective on my own life. A good, fast, and fun read.
I was not expecting this. First of all, I didn’t realize it was an autobiography (a polished autobiography) and I also didn’t realize it was going to be so goddamn fantastic.

Anyone who is whining about their life being so hard should just sit down and read this. I’m not invalidating anyone’s issues, of course, but this book really puts things in perspective in the lens of "first world problems". Married at 17 (out of a debt) to a man she barely knows, multiple stillbirths, child deaths, harrowi
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Trials of the Earth is a true account of one of the first settlers of the Mississippi Delta. Mary Hamilton says she thinks she is the first white woman to cross the Sunflower River. Her recollections of this difficult yet fascinating period of history are as detailed as they are honest. If you enjoyed These Is My Words, you will love a nonfiction version of that book.

I grew up in the Delta and often played along the banks of the Sunflower River even though I was forbidden to do so. Reading Hami
Melanie Smith
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi and when my mom told me about this book I could not wait to read it. I am usually a cozy mystery fan with a little historical fiction thrown in. After reading two chapters of the book, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites. My aunt still resides in Dublin, Mississippi. I purchased this book for myself, my mom and my aunt. Reading about the places that I grew up around was so exciting and to learn and read about the woman that was part of p ...more
Belle Blackburn
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is Mary's story, of her hardscrabble life and how she survived, endured and found joy in plain living. This is not a lyrical novel studded with poetic prose, just her life as she remembered it ("just the facts, ma'am"). I find her descriptions of everyday living and chores fascinating, and I enjoyed getting to know her children. She is a more patient woman than me in many ways, but I could never have put up with not knowing my husband's background. I would have had to fish that out at some ...more
Anne Poole
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is such an interesting book. Her life and hardships and the stories that accompany it are unbelievable. If I could have given this book 3.5 stars I would have for these reasons: it needs indices, including maps of the various camps and areas she moves around, family tree, and maybe a dictionary for some of her old fashioned words and phrases. Also, as this was written in her own words it was a bit difficult to understand at times. That said, I think this should be required reading for Ameri ...more
Jamie Leake
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I had a little trouble getting into this book at the start. There are a lot of names and places and I admittedly did not do a great job keeping straight while I read. It is incredible that these stories are true (truth is stranger than fiction, for realz!!) Also pretty amazing how much she remembered about the events in her life so many years later. I didn't love some of the transitions from place to place and from one event to the next, but overall I really enjoyed hearing about this woman's in ...more
Elizabeth Lee
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This woman's story impressed so many different things upon me. Perseverance thru grief, grueling work, and hardship after hardship while trying to carve out a life and home in the wild Mississippi Delta. An excellent storyteller.
Karl Wiggins
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Should be ranked with ‘Grapes of Wrath,’ ‘Huck Finn’ and ‘Great Gatsby’as showing the culture of the United States at a ‘specific’ era in the nation’s history

This wonderful book is full of words of wisdom;

“I always looked for friends and not for trouble. Trouble was something I found without looking for it.”

“Women can stand more work, more trouble, and more religion than men.”

“I got my idea right there to raise my children to believe they were a necessary part of the home – not to drive them t
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Anytime a nonfiction reads more like a novel, it's hard not to enjoy it. Knowing some of the territory she was referring to and seeing how it changed in those years was quite interesting as well. Excellent read for anyone interested in Mississipi or Arkansas history as well as anyone who is looking to see an attitude of joy during trying circumstances.
Mar 26, 2019 added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I had high hopes for this book. I love a good strong pioneer women. I know it is someone's Great, Great Grandma's journals but the writing just wasn't good enough to support it. I can see why this writer wanted to talk about her ancestors but it wasn't that interesting to me. I was bored and quit reading.
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