The Little Bride
Sixteen-year-old Minna Losk dreams of her new life as a mail-order bride in America. She’ll have a handsome young husband, a big house in the city, and days of leisure, a far cry from the poverty and hard work she suffered in Odessa. Instead she finds Max, devoutly Orthodox and living in a sod house in the Dakota plains with his two teenage sons. Max spends more time studying and praying than he does farming, and he leaves the eking out to his oldest son, the taciturn and stubborn Samuel. As Minna struggles to deal with a forbidding landscape, failing farm, and weak husband, she begins to quietly fall in love with her stepson Samuel.
I’ll admit, Minna was a tough character to get close to. This is very much a character-driven novel, yet the writing choices the author made distanced me from Minna at times. I loved the premise and thought the other characters were well-drawn, but wasn’t able to get into the novel as much as I wished.
The time period, though, was fascinating and obviously well-researched. Max is part of the Am Olam movement, Jewish-Americans who believed that, through hard work and self-sufficiency farming the American West, they could prove themselves true citizens of their adopted country and avoid the persecution they faced in Europe. I’ve never read about Jewish pioneers or alternative views of the settling of the West and enjoyed adding this neglected piece of history to my store of knowledge.