Hattie is an orphaned teenager seeking to prove up on a homestead in a northeast Montana town called Vida in 1918. Her story captivated me. I found Hattie nicely rounded character, realistic and sweet. Her challenges were meaningful and well-presented. At times I found them a bit predictable, but then I've done a fair bit of research about homesteading in that era.
The thing is: so has Larson. It's evident in her storytelling, but also in her background material. Though she lives in Seattle, her own great-grandmother had homesteaded in Vida. To flesh out the vague family stories, Larson scoured newspapers, books, and journals. The result is a portrait of a community awash in the prejudice of wartime amid the difficulty of economic uncertainty. Thus, like the best historical work, the novel becomes of document of our own challenges as well as its characters'.
I'm looking forward to the Montana Festival of the Book, where Larson and I will be on a September 29 panel discussing views of the West.
I'm always interested in feedback, via info at johnclaytonbooks...