Monday, April 9, 2012

THE LITTLE BRIDE by Anna Solomon

Minna, a Jewish mail-order bride bound for South Dakota, suspects that she cannot bear children.  She dreams of a warm and welcoming home but instead finds a sod house built into the side of a hill and a husband whose sons are older than she.  The husband is a poor provider, partly because he is not a very good farmer and partly because his kosher requirements are not conducive to the expedient delivery of meat.  Trained as a rabbi, he is not a cruel man, but he relies on his sons' additional income and the good will of his neighbors.  The scene in which he finally allows himself to eat a chicken that has died in their henhouse is one of my favorites.  This is at least the second time that he has sacrificed his faith to his will to survive.  Minna, on the other hand, is a survivor by nature, but she finds it difficult to steel herself to a life this hard.  The other women she meets inspire a certain amount of envy, with their nicer homes and finer clothing, and shame her into trying to do the best she can with what she has.  Then a cow steps through the ceiling of Minna's earth-sheltered house--an accident which seems to pave the way to a better house, at least.  As winter sets in, however, imminent starvation spurs Minna to make some decisions in order to save herself.  In some ways, I felt that this story of Midwestern pioneer hardship was one that I had read before, but the smoldering attraction between Minna and her oldest stepson added a new element, and I couldn't help wondering where that situation was headed.

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