Prather’s Pick: Historical novel ‘A Breath of Hope’ looks at early 1900s
June 5, 2018
This week's novel for adults is historical fiction. "A Breath of Hope," by Lauraine Snelling and published by Bethany House, is the second novel in the Under Northern Series.
"A Breath of Hope," new for 2018, is a sequel to "The Promise of Dawn."
The historical period covered in this book is the early 1900s, when immigrants were coming to America, some of them in hopes of owning their own farms one day. The novel is set in northern Minnesota, where much of the land was forested. Settlers cut down the trees, sold them in logging operations, then used the land for farming.
The novel begins in Norway, where Nilda Carlson is making plans to emigrate to America. Her brother, Rune, and his family are there, already, living with Uncle Einar and Tante Gerd Strand. Einar had paid for their way to America if they would work for him as reimbursement for the voyage fees. Now, Einar has made the same offer to Nilda. Nilda's brother, Ivar, wants to go, too, but he refuses to let Einar pay his way, so Nilda is working to make the money.
Back in America, Rune; his wife, Signe; his sons, Knute, Leif and Bjorn; and 3-month-old Kirstin are living in the same house with Einar and Gerd. However, Rune plans to build their own house in the summer. Rune, Einar and Bjorn cut trees, which they sell, and work the farm ground, planting corn and other crops. The women care for the house, raise a large garden and put away produce for winter.
Knute and Leif attend school, and Signe has joined a group to learn English. The family attends church — except for Einar.
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Uncle Einar is at the center of the conflict in this novel. He is a grouchy tyrant who is interested in only one thing — money. The Carlson family was used to laughter in their house, but that isn't the case any longer. When Rune decides to start building a house, Einar refuses to help. Not only that, he won't allow anyone else on the land to help, either.
Nilda and Ivar make the voyage to America (a dreadful experience) and join the others in Einar and Gerd's house. Not long after they arrive, Einar is in an accident, and both families are in for a shock.
I enjoyed reading this book, but I wish I had read the first novel in the series before I began this one. I still have questions about Tante Gerd and her apparent illness when Rune and Signe first moved in with the Strands.
"A Breath of Hope" costs $22.99 in hardcover. It can also be found with new books at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.