I heard about this book slightly before, being that it is the namesake of one of my favorite blogs, A Lantern in Her Hand. I finally got around to checking it out when I was reminded of it by seeing it on a list of books that was recommended for my brother's literature (he didn't read it though, haha).
This book was really beautiful. It was so real, and heartfelt, and lovely. The novel spans pretty much the whole life of Abbie Mackenzie, starting with her dreams of being a lovely pearl-laden lady like her aristocratic grandmother, Isabelle Anders-Mackenzie. Following her life as she grows up, the story tells of her courage as a young wife and mother out on the harsh Nebraska prairie.
A lot of the events in this book paralleled Little House on the Prairie.....prairie fires, well-mishaps....and the infamous grasshopper plagues.
I've read so many books about pioneers that after while I almost get tired of hearing about all the hardships they went through-because it was just so disheartening!
But, despite the hard, back-breaking work and depressing, tear-filled moments, Abbie made the best of it all and provided for her family out on the lonely prairie. There are moments of happiness, one of my favorites being their Christmas with all the homemade presents for the children.
Now, the next few paragraphs will contain some *spoilers*, so either skip to the very bottom of this post or just go read the book. It's worth it!!
Will and Abbie were an adorable couple. I loved how they knew each other from childhood and understood each other so well. It was so sweet when he kissed her goodbye when he went to war.
Then of course, there was Ed Matthews.....I loved it when Abbie ran to Will when he returned from war in the spring (this author's descriptions of nature and the seasons and the surroundings are sooooo beautiful) and sobbed, "Don't let me do it!" "Do what, Abbie-Girl?" "Marry Ed Matthews." And Will fiercely gathers her to him and says he certainly will not. It's just so sweet and romantic and perfect because Abbie and Will are perfect. Together, I mean. :)
(Will's death was so unfair. That's all I'm going to say about it.)
I cried and sobbed when Abbie died....not so much because she died (we all have to sometime) but reading an entire book about one person's life (whether they be fictional or real), sharing in their disappointments and happiness, and then coming to the end.....
I also felt sad for her in the sense that not many of her children seemed to understand her. Laura, her granddaughter did, for which I am thankful, but as for her actual children who grew up on the prairie....they never seemed to fully grasp how she thought of things, and how much she did for them-all the self-sacrifices she made for them. Ever since she was a little girl she dreamed of doing something "big"-being a singer, an artist, or a writer. She dreamed and waited and waited for that day to come but it never did. Instead, she got to see her daughter Isabelle become the singer, her daughter Margaret become the artist, and her granddaughter Laura become the writer.
I did love how Abbie comes to realize despite her never did anything "great"-she accomplished the most wonderful task of all, that of motherhood. I just wish her children could have shown her a little more kindness and understanding. They all loved her, I grant them that, but they never seemed to take the time to truly understand her and her memories and emotions. As it says later on it the book,
"How [the children] thought of her bodily comfort,-always her physical needs. Not one ever said, 'Are you sad, Mother?' or 'How does your mind feel?' or 'Does anything hurt your heart?'"
For instance, she finally gives the pearls-the necklace handed down by her own mother to be given to one of the Mackenzie girls on their wedding day- to her granddaughter Katharine. Abbie tells her the story of the pearls, but Kathie just doesn't seem too interested in how meaningful that necklace was to Abbie. She later does tell Abbie that she cares more then it seems, but still. Actions speak louder than words, Kathie! I guess because I love history and the life stories of people, I just can't grasp how Abbie's children just didn't seem to care. They were too caught up in their own lives.
They did do a lovely thing for her, though. They found and bought the portrait of Isabelle Anders-Mackenzie that Abbie had heard and dreamed about since childhood. I was crying for happiness when the showed it to her. It was overwhelming. The meaning that the portrait held for her....
I loved the comparison of love being a lantern and how often the author described Abbie with "a song on her lips and a lantern in her hand." It was so beautiful.
This book is as sweet, lovely, and cozy as they come. It has the sweeping broadness of an epic story, and yet most of the story takes place right in Abbie's house in Nebraska. Love and duty and family are central themes to the story and I can hardly think of this book without tearing up because it's just so beautiful and I'm such a romantic, emotional, nolstagic person.
Read this book. You won't regret it.