Monday, February 06, 2006

A White Bird Flying

I am sure someone could write a master’s thesis on Bess Streeter Aldrich. That is not my intention. But I have made a few observations about her writing…

I just finished up A White Bird Flying. This book was more difficult to get through than Rim of the Prairie and Song of Years. It is the shortest of the three books I have read. A White Bird Flying is a direct reflection of Bess Streeter Aldrich, while the other books reflected her parents and grandparents. It is not unlike the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, where she takes events and people she is familiar with and inserts them into a fictional story.

While reading this book, I looked up info on the net about Aldrich. Perhaps I should have waited until I was done with the book, because it spoiled some things. After reading her biographical information, I could connect up things from her life to characters in her books. Her husband was a banker. All three of her books feature a character that is a banker. All three stories take place on the prairie. She lived most of her life in and around Lincoln, Nebraska. The female characters are writers and teachers, and Aldrich is a writer.

It is the close connections to Aldrich’s life that make the stories predictable. Plus, the stories were all constructed in the same way. The two main characters are introduced in the first two chapters. As a reader, I will know that those two characters will fall in love and marry by the end. The pivotal climax where the two characters realize their love occurs during a severe weather storm in the last few chapters. You can count on one character being a banker, another a writer, and several being farmers.

Perhaps the most annoying problem with A White Bird Flying is the main character, Laura Deal. Laura is a wannabe writer and career woman. Aldrich overly romanticizes the life of a career writer. As if there is no more noble and greater career option for a woman than crafting words and phrases into an artful story. And yet, Aldrich almost forces her character to make choices leading toward her writing career that does not make any sense. An example of this is Laura agreeing to the ridiculous contract to take care of her aging aunt and uncle in exchange for receiving their inheritance. By doing this, she could spend her spare time writing. A levelheaded person would see that this arrangement would never work. That by agreeing to do this, she would be living a life of servitude. If Laura Deal were truly a modern career woman, it would make no sense to agree to this. And yet, she does. I think this was a personal desire of Aldrich. Have someone else pay the bills so she could spend her time writing without a care.

A White Bird Flying is perhaps her weakest story. It was predictable and overly wrought at times. It may have been writer fatigue on my part. Read by itself, it is an entertaining story. I would only recommend this book to a serious fan of Aldrich. As an introduction of Aldrich’s work, I would recommend her book A Song of Years.

For more info about Bess Steeter Aldrich: http://www.lincolnne.com/nonprofit/bsaf/

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