The Yearling

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Yearling
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.”


Sandy Nawrot said...

The kids and I tried to listen to this on audio and it just didn't work. That made me feel bad...I was trying to help my kids get some classics! I think this one is for reading.

Bybee said...

I was surprised at how gritty this book was and how much I loved it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Ha, I actually listened to this one on audio, but I was expecting something incredibly boring, so my expectations were low. Honestly, I don't think I would have liked this one as a kid, even though it's technically a YA book. It's all about the harsh realities of life and that's not always fun to hear about as a kid.

Bybee - Me too! I was expected a somewhat borrowing story about a deer, but it was really wonderful.

*ೃ༄ Jillian said...

This one sounds so good. I own a copy but still haven't made time to read it. I feel like I'll love it when I do. :)

Jenners said...

Oh … that quote at the end just got me. It sums up how I feel about losing my parents. There is never any answer … and I crave that.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - It took me years to finally take it off the shelf!

Jenners - That quote really resonated with me as well. I wasn't expecting this book to be so poignant in parts.

Care said...

HEY! I have this book! I wish I'd known you were reading it. It's just so.... long? lots of pages??!! I dread starting it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - It was a surprisingly long book. It worked well on audio for me.

Celine said...

Only just found this ( thanks to your round up post)One of my BIG childhood favorites. Thanks so much for reminding me of it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Celine - I'm glad you found it. I was really surprised by how lovely it was.