In a Far-Off Land

Written by Stephanie Landsem
Review by Thomas j. Howley

When the Great Depression strikes the United States, it seems no one is spared, not even the superstars of early cinema. But Minerva Zimmerman from Odessa, South Dakota, knows she can save her family and their failing farm if she can just get to Hollywood and become the next great Tinseltown actress. She takes what she thinks she needs to get by in California and sneaks off, leaving her diligent sister, Penny, and her loving and hard-working father to struggle on at home.

Minnie tells herself she just needs to become a star, and then she can return home with enough money to salvage the farm and take care of her family. But she finds that most of the Hollywood elite she always looked up to are not only decadent but dangerous as well. With luck, she manages to find an experienced agent named Max to represent her. Max seems serious, honest, and protective, but she wants to make it big quickly. Ignoring her agent’s advice, Minnie wakes up one morning to find herself entwined in a murder case. Things seem to spin out of control, and she is protected by an unlikely family of Mexican immigrants. Somehow she must make it all right once more.

Part John Steinbeck and part Mickey Spillane, this well-researched historical novel is a tale of inspiration and hope. The historical Hollywood characters and venues were so interesting I found myself looking them up online to learn more about them. The pompous and mendacious Hollywood personalities are contrasted with the devout local Catholic Mexican community and the simple and poor farm families back in South Dakota, all of whom look out for each other. Highly recommended.