Good Minds Suggest: Tracy Chevalier's Favorite Frontier BooksMarch, 2016
Life on the frontier was no prairie fairy tale. The romanticized versions we get in movies and books often strip out the era's edge, presenting a simpler, sweeter time. In reality? Happily-ever-afters were hard earned and rare. Tracy Chevalier doesn't shy away from the difficulties of frontier life in her new book, At the Edge of the Orchard. The internationally known, bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn introduces us to James and Sadie Goodenough, poverty-stricken parents who find their future decided by a stretch of swamp that halts their wagon's progress west. With no other option, they attempt to tame the land around them. But carving out stability from the mud is no easy work, and their children will feel the effects of their labor and their sacrifice for decades to come. Chevalier shares her favorite unflinching tales of life, love, and loss on the American frontier.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
"All of the Little House books are wonderful, but I particularly loved this one. The Ingalls family gets trapped in their house in South Dakota by a brutal winter that depletes the whole town's supplies. To survive they have to grind wheat in a coffee grinder to make basic bread and twist hay into sticks to burn. In the end, Laura's future husband, Almanzo Wilder, saves the day by driving through a blizzard to buy wheat a farmer has been hoarding. I loved the detail of their daily lives, the suffering, and the pulling together of the community to get through the winter."
All True Not a Lie in It by Alix Hawley
"I am so glad this novel will be published in the U.S. later in 2016, as it gets inside the mind of one of America's most enduring pioneer folk heroes and strips him bare. Early pioneer Daniel Boone is mostly known for his coonskin cap, but in Hawley's version he is a peculiar man with a habit of leaving his family to go hunting and taking years to return. Hawley writes about Boone's relationship with Native Americans and with the harsh landscape he survives in a manner both dreamlike and enthralling."
The Son by Philipp Meyer
"OK, this novel is not for everyone, as it's incredibly violent and upsetting. But it is also amazing. A young Texan boy sees his family raped, scalped, and killed by Comanches, then is taken to live among them and becomes one, until he is forced to turn tables. The book also follows his family as they become oil barons, but the section among the Comanches is what blew me away; I became so embedded in their lifestyle and mind-set that I felt I really understood what they were like. An impressive feat of imagination."
Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles
"Set in Civil War Missouri, this poetic novel follows Adair, a young woman in a divided state who sets off to find out what has become of her father. Thrown into prison, she develops a romance with her enemy jailer. I love a feisty heroine, and that set against Jiles's unusual lyricism makes for a gorgeous read."
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
"I could have chosen any of McCarthy's books, really, as they are all set on some sort of frontier and are written in a spare, mesmeric style of simple sentences describing actions. Men ride horses to round up cattle or look for work or steal things or fight. They eat beans and meat, wrap themselves in a blanket to sleep by the fire, follow tracks through the desert, get burnt in the sun, kill other men. Set to repeat. Instead of being dull, however, the repetition builds into something magnificent and compelling. This book has the added bonus of a sort of romance, too!"
Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best American Frontier Books