Friday, September 22, 2017

A Bride Goes West by Nannie T. Alderson

The title of Nannie Alderson's biography sounds like a romance novel, but it's anything but romantic. A Bride Goes West is about her life as a Montana rancher's wife in the 1880s and 90s and although she's upbeat, she doesn't gloss over the hardships.

I went with romantic ideas of being a helpmeet to a man in a new country, but I was sadly ill-equipped when it came to carrying them out. Before I left West Virginia a dear old lady had taught me how to make hot rolls, but except for that one accomplishment I knew no more of cooking than I did of Greek. Hot rolls, plus a vague understanding that petticoats ought to be plain, were my whole equipment for conquering the West. (p. 19)

Since there were so few women nearby, Nannie learned to cook and keep house from the men who worked for her husband. She was amazed at how much they knew! At first it was all a big adventure, but as the years wore on (with the children arriving and with various financial failures), the glamour wore off.  The remoteness of their lives, the constant work and stresses made her worry more and more: I don't think I was naturally of a nervous disposition. I think I was overworked. I had four children to care for with practically no help; I had gotten up too soon and had done too much work after the last two of them were born; I was worn out, and once more took to feeling sorry for myself.

In spite of the difficulties and occasional bouts of self-pity, Nannie's perseverance and hopefulness shine throughout the book. My husband enjoyed the book as much as I did, pronouncing it a "nourishing" read. Nannie writes about the ups and downs of marriage. She tells of the elusiveness of riches and how they had to carve joy out of simple things. She never sugar-coats her life, but there is a sense of fierce determination to make things work out that is inspiring.

Elisabeth Grace Foley lists this book among 10 exceptional western memoirs here.



Michele Morin said...

This sounds like a grown-up twist on Sarah Plain and Tall (which I love). And I love tales of the heart-breakingly brave and fierce women who settled the west. I'm afraid that if it had been up to me, everything west of Pennsylvania would still be a howling wasteland.

Cathy said...

Thank you, Hope, for your review and for publishing a link to Elisabeth's website! I love this kind of reading and writing - what a find for me!!! Many thanks.

Jessica Snell said...

That honestly sounds fascinating! I love the little excerpts you pulled out.