Thursday, May 10, 2007

Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker

Originally published in 1944. 306 pages.

Winter Wheat was the April pick for one of my book clubs. I was not familiar with the book or the author, and because of my mild aversion to "classics", when I discovered that the book had been published in 1944, I was a little apprehensive about it. I always try to read book club picks, though - after all, what's the point of belonging to a book club if it doesn't broaden your horizons a little?! - so I started it about a week before the group meeting.

I ended up helping Sugar Bear with his school project on giraffes that night and it took me longer to read the book than I would have liked - I just finished it this week, mostly because I have been so busy at work and too tired to read more than a few pages before falling asleep at night - but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.

The metaphor of "winter wheat" itself is one worth contemplating, but, for me at least, the impact of the book goes far beyond that.

In the introduction, James Welch said, "Mildred Walker's success is in creating a keen psychological portrait of her main character. We see through Ellen Webb's eyes." While I'm certainly not a ranch girl, I related to Ellen Webb's experiences in discovering who she is and what matters to her. As Welch wrote, this novel is "a story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, within the space of a year and a half. But what a year and a half it is!"

I also loved that this is a book about the American West. Set in Montana, where Walker lived for much of her life, it explained to me something I'd never understood - that is, why Montana is called the "Big Sky State". I grew up not far from Montana (in Idaho) and for all but a short period of my life have lived in the West. I'm definitely a Western States girl!

By the way, I think this one might make it on my Something About Me Challenge list. I'll be using it for one of my "wild card" spots on my Spring Reading Thing list too.


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