Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

Can you both enjoy reading a book, and be slightly disappointed in it at the same time?  I think you can, because this is how I felt while reading Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner.  The main character of the story is Liddie Treadway, an Iowa farmgirl in the early 1900s.  She has big dreams of leaving the farm, and making her own way in the city as a seamstress.  When her sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and is subsequently sent away from home in shame, Liddie feels that her chance is slipping away.  It falls even further from her grasp when her father is badly injured and dies.  But, finally, after much waiting and hoping, Liddie is allowed to move to a nearby city, where she becomes an apprentice to a seamstress.  She then comes into contact with a local photographer, and develops both a talent and a skill for photography.  Her dream of traveling around the world to countries like France seems to be coming true.  As Liddie grows and changes, she begins to feel the pull of the farm and simple country life calling her back home.  She swore she’d never marry a farmer, but when Liddie finds true love with Joe, who used to be her family’s farm hand, she must decide if she’s willing to give up all of her dreams and find a new dream.

The characters in this book are wonderful, and lovable.  Liddie is written in such a way that she feels like someone you could know.  I felt myself wishing I could point out to her that she was about to make a big mistake, and felt relief when she finally made the right choice.  The secondary characters were equally well-written, and very true-to-life.  Who of us doesn’t know an Amelia who makes a mistake that haunts her for the rest of her life?  And a Minnie who struggles with the desire for a child?  And then there’s Joe, who fell in love with Liddie through letters, and came home to tell her so.   Of course I can’t leave out Thomas, who I disliked almost immediately, and only grew to dislike more as the story progressed.

The story has a great setting against the backdrop of a country on the brink of war.  Although the book covers a timespan of several years, it’s obvious how the unrest in Europe became more and more worrisome to those in America. 

So far it would seem that I’ve raved about all the things I enjoyed in this book, so where did the disappointment come in?  I felt like this story was always on the edge of some sort of big conflict, and then it just didn’t happen.  It seemed like it was constantly building towards something, but it never materialized.  It didn’t seem to follow that story form we all learned about in school: introduction, conflict, climax, resolution.  While Liddie did have her share of problems and struggles, everything always seemed to just naturally work out, without a lot of fuss or bother.  And I absolutely HATED the ending.  Truthfully, this story is probably an accurate depiction of life, where days flow into weeks, weeks become years, and eventually you realize your life is passing.  This is the story of one girl’s life, with its good parts, and bad parts.  And I know that sometimes life doesn’t end happily, but I wanted more from this book!  I did admire Liddie’s tenacity and her ability to pick up the pieces and start over.  I would like to know what happened to her family in a few years when the Great Depression hit.  Maybe there will be a sequel.

So there are my (very long-winded) thoughts on this book.  Do I think it’s worth your time to read?  While I did have some disappointments along the way, I liked this book overall.  It has more of steady pace than a lot of the thrillers I’ve been reading lately, and that was a nice change.  I think it’s a great book for relaxing and recalling simpler, happier times.  It’s worthy of a place on your fiction shelf.       

Happy Reading!
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for this review.

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