by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
This morning I surveyed my half-flattened, waterlogged garden. Tropical storm Hannah passed by us yesterday. Seeing what a mess one day of heavy rain can make, I thought of a vivid passage from The Yearling, where after days of endless rain, the family's crops were totally destroyed, and what little they could salvage to bring inside promptly went moldy. I can fall back on the refrigerator and supermarket, but for them it was a sudden matter of near-starvation.
The Yearling is set in central Florida's scrub wilderness, during the late 1800's. Its main character is the young boy Jody. His family is totally dependent upon the land for their survival, and much of the book is an ode to nature- wildlife and landscape abound in beautiful descriptions. Jody likes nothing better than to traipse off and enjoy nature by himself- or better yet, go hunting with his father. He longs for a pet, and when the opportunity to adopt an orphaned fawn presents itself, Jody is ecstatic. But when the deer grows up, it poses a serious threat to their crops. Facing what to do about his pet deer is only one of the tough decisions Jody has to make as he grows up. In fact, although the situation about the deer is pivotal in his coming of age, it is really not the focus of this book.
More than anything, this is a story about family, relationships and survival. Jody's father is a mild-mannered man, who tries to protect his son from harsh realities. His mother is far more domineering- and their contrasting personalities create an interesting family dynamic. Their closest neighbors are a clan of rough men, who alternately pose a threat, or the only nearby help in times of trouble. His best friend is a gentle, disabled boy. Jody also runs into strangers during trips to town, faces bullies at school, etc. As different dramatic events swirl around him, he veers between feeling admiration, love, disdain and hate towards other people- often experiencing opposite emotions towards the same individual. This book vividly portrays how conflicting feelings unfold inside the heart of a boy as he faces some very difficult life lessons. I highly recommend it.
Rating: 5/5 ........ 373 pages, 1938