I had never read My Antonia. It wasn't a book I read in high school, college, or grad school, so I'm coming at it with fresh, unbiased and unforced eyes. In other words, I am loving it. It is so very fitting for my mindset lately and the imagery is nothing short of heavenly. The landscape is as much a character as Antonia or Jim. Work and play are interwoven and in my heart of hearts I wish to have that type of lifestyle for my family. It's not without hardships, but it's also full of pure, unadulterated joy.
Willa Cather writes beautifully and evokes so much peace and tranquility even within Antonia's hardships. Cather gets humans. She gets their nature and is able to portray characteristics that I found I could relate to perfectly though I've never been to Nebraska or lived on a farm. My Antonia speaks accurately about the human experience: the sadness, the joy, the insecurities, the mistakes, the redemption.
"It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape
that made detail so precious."
This book raised questions of what it means to live a fulfilling life and how do we choose to remember the past. Is it romanticized? Absolutely. For myself whenever life feels stagnant my immediate reaction is to flip through photos of our time in Glasgow. I've romanticized our time there because it was such a stretching, growing, challenging, and wonderful chapter of our lives. But I had miserable moments there too.
My Antonia also takes a round-about look at the future. So much changed in such a seemingly short amount of time from the moment Jim and Antonia step foot off the train to the final promise Jim makes to Antonia's boy. He's found his path and he's sticking to it. Choosing the right path isn't always easy. We don't ever have all the variables, which makes decision making a giant pain in the rump, but it's also what makes the mess potentially exciting. For me, it feels like my whole adult life has been one major decision after another, and most of the time I feel like I'm a toddler playing dress up, when if fact, I actually have toddlers who do play dress up.
Of course, I couldn't read this novel and forget to mention hard work and perseverance. Nothing comes easy, except perhaps the trials; poor Antonia just doesn't seem to be able to get her feet under her, until the very end. The success stories are the ones least likely to be labelled: success. The whole novel could be chalked up to one long lesson of the hardships of life and the brevity of the quiet, unhurried moments. However, in those tranquil moments, the world stops and peace prevails.