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message 1: by Book Concierge (last edited Jul 31, 2018 08:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5803 comments The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Yearling – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Rawlings’s 1938 Pulitzer-winning novel focuses on the boy Jody, his parents Ora and Penny Baxter, their neighbors the Forresters, and their hard-scrabble lives in central Florida in about 1870.

I first heard of this classic of children’s literature when I was about 10 years old, but I never read it. I hadn’t even seen the movie. I had only a vague notion about the plot – a boy and his pet deer, “the yearling” of the title. I’m so glad that I finally read it.

Rawlings tells the tale from Jody’s perspective. He’s twelve years old when the novel opens, and still spends much of his time roaming about the woods, exercising his imagination and connecting with nature. Yes, he has chores – what farm-child doesn’t – but he frequently gets distracted in the middle of hoeing a field, following a squirrel or just getting lost in his thoughts when he takes a brief break to get a drink from a nearby stream.

His father, Penny, grew up with stern parents and had hardly any childhood, saddled with responsibility at a very young age. As a result, he is willing to work twice as hard to keep his boy a “boy” for a longer period. This is a source of disagreement between Penny and Ma, who feels that Jody is past the age for greater responsibility. He is, after all, their only child, and if they are to survive (let alone prosper) Jody must take on a greater share of the work.

When Jody and his father meet disaster while out hunting, they are forced to kill a doe with a new-born fawn. Once they are back home, Jody prevails upon his father to let him retrieve the fawn, who, Jody argues, is an orphan only because of their actions. Jody dotes on Flag and treats the animal as a brother. But as Flag grows to a yearling, his natural instincts coupled with tameness and Jody’s indulgence, lead to troubling behavior. The difficult decisions that are required show how everyone has matured and grown over the course of the novel.

I could not help but equate Flag’s “growing up” to Jody’s. Both are indulged and left free to roam and both have to endure pain and suffering as a result of growing towards adulthood. I could not help but wonder if the title was more a reference to Jody than to the fawn.

What really shines in this novel is the connection to nature. I was reminded of the many times I was in the woods with my father, and the way he taught me and my brothers about plants, animals, hunting, and fishing. I feel sorry for modern urban children who have no such connection in their lives.

I particularly loved this passage:
The cranes were dancing a cotillion as surely as it was danced at Volusia. Two stood apart, erect and white, making a strange music that was part cry and part singing. The rhythm was irregular, like the dance. The other birds were in a circle. In the heart of the circle, several moved counter-clock-wise. The musicians made their music. The dancers raised their wings and lifted their feet, first one and then the other. …. The birds were reflected in the clear marsh water. Sixteen white shadows reflected the motions. The evening breeze moved across the saw-grass. It bowed and fluttered. The water rippled. The setting sun lay rosy on the white bodies. Magic birds were dancing in a mystic marsh. The grass swayed with them, and the shallow waters, and the earth fluttered under them. The earth was dancing with the cranes, and the low sun, and the wind and sky.

Rawlings uses the vernacular dialect of the time and place, and there are some uncomfortable uses of the “n” word. It’s appropriate to the time, place, and the characters, and it’s not frequent (maybe six times in the 400-page book), but it is nevertheless jarring to today’s readers.

The edition I got from the library was masterfully illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (father of Andrew Wyeth). What a joy it was to examine these paintings. I looked at them and looked at them over and over as I was reading. And nearly two weeks after finishing the book, I'm still looking at them ... reluctant to return the book to the library.

LINK to my review

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Thank you. I've been debating whether to reread this mostly-forgotten book from my childhood, and now I'm convinced that I need to do so. (If only to get the bad taste of Where the Red Fern Grows out of my mouth.)

Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) Btw, the link to your review seems to be broken.

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5803 comments Cheryl wrote: "Btw, the link to your review seems to be broken."

Thanks for telling me. I fixed it now.

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