by Kirby Larson
Read by: Kirsten Potter
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Hattie is an orphan who, for most of her life, has been shuffled around to distant relatives to live. She’s never felt she’s belonged anywhere, never felt like she had a family. Then, the winter she’s 16, she gets a letter from an estranged uncle leaving her his 320 acre homestead claim in Montana. All she has to do is finish proving up on it, and it’s hers.
So, trying to escape the feeling of being unwanted, Hattie ventures out to the land, three miles northwest of Vida, Montana, and attempts to fill the terms of the claim. In doing so, she discovers things about herself, about people in general, and manages to find a family in the diverse bunch of people out there on the northern prairie.
It is very much a coming of age book: it’s all about Hattie growing and learning and finding a place in her own skin as well as learning that family doesn’t always mean blood relations. But beyond that, it’s an excellent historical novel: Larson manages to give us a picture of homesteading life — shades of Laura Ingalls Wilder — set in the early 20th century, against the backdrop of World War I. The themes that ran through the book, of wartime racism and sacrifice, are (as she mentioned in the author’s note) applicable today. The characters rang true, and the book avoided being too cliche or overly saccharine in the end, which I appreciated.
And the audiobook was quite lovely. Kirsten Potter does a grand job reading the book, capturing the subtleties of the characters. It was a grand way to experience this wonderful little book.