Mrs. Mike

I hate Valentine’s Day.

Oh, I’m sure I liked it as a kid — decorating valentine’s boxes (there would always be a competition, and I would never win), handing out store-bought valentines. But sometime in high school (during my mismatched earrings, torn-jeans, hairy-legged feminist stage) I grew to loathe this holiday. Why do we need a day when we get chocolate and flowers? I don’t especially like red or pink or white, and while roses are pretty, I think I prefer them on a bush. Cheryl wrote about her friend’s anarchist fiance who boycotts major holidays. While I don’t subscribe to it during the month of December, anarchism in February sounds just about right.

All that said, Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, is a perfect Valentine’s Day book. (It’s also book number four for the classics challenge.)

The story is simple enough: It’s 1907 and Kathy, an Irish immigrant living in Boston, is sent to Edmonton, Alberta, because of her pleurisy. Once there she meets Mike Flannigan, a Canadian Mounty, falls in love and marries him. She follows him to his post in the Northwest Territory, where she’s pretty much the only white woman. And they experience life. Fires, bears, babies, death, mutilation, festivals, friendship, love. It’s a quiet little book, but a tender one. Kathy learns to cope with a husband who belongs not just to her, but to the whole community. She makes friends, she deals with loss. She finds strength in community and in her husband.

I can see why it’s a classic.

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