Monday, April 2, 2012Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
I avoided this one for years because I always thought it would be just like reading another painful version of Old Yeller. It may be a good story, but I’m a softy when it comes to animals and I didn’t want it to break my heart.
I’m so glad I finally picked it up. It’s not that it doesn’t have its sad parts, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the ultimate coming-of-age story. Jody, sweet young boy, grows up with his mother and father on isolated farm in Florida shortly after the Civil War. They struggle to survive harsh weather, the attacks of an old bear named Slewfoot and their wild neighbors who are both helpful and a bit dangerous.
Jody’s father, Penny Baxter, is the essence of a good man. He is kind and loving, but he also works hard to care for his family. Ma (Ory) is a cold woman and at first this is jarring. She seems so bitter and harsh and it’s hard to reconcile that with Penny’s tender nature. But you quickly realize that Ory has been through innumerable hardship and we learn that she has lost many children. We don’t know exactly how many or how they died, but we know Jody is the only child that survived. She’s given up on her dreams and realized that her life will never be made easier. This is her lot in life and she had to become hard to survive. It’s not easy to love a character like that, but I can understand how she has become that way.
It’s interesting that the yearling doesn’t actually show up until almost halfway through the book. This gives the reader a chance to connect with all of the other characters, which is crucial for the story to work.
The Yearling is really Jody’s story. He is such an innocent child at the beginning, but they live in a ruthless world and there’s very little room for playfulness in the adult life of a pioneer. People were completely dependant on the land. If there was a drastic change in the weather there was nothing they could do. Their food source came from what they could farm or shoot. We take so much for granted now. The sheer fact that we can go to a grocery store any time or pick up dinner at a restaurant makes it hard to even comprehend that kind of lifestyle. It’s a powerful story and an interesting glimpse into the life of a pioneer.
“Death was a silence that gave back no answer.”