When I started blogging on Rolling Staircase, I expected that my contribution would mainly be biographies and other non-fiction. But I guess I turned out to be more of a children’s book reviewer. I’m still reading biographies in my own reading time though, and I do have some to share.
I bought Ida: her labor of love at Half Price Books before we went on vacation in June. You probably wonder why on earth I would be drawn to a book about a pioneer woman having numerous children in Colorado in the late 19th, early 20th century? Well, there were several reasons I chose Ida:
- I’ve decided that if there is a book in me in my lifetime, it’s going to be about my Mammaw. I have no idea how to write the book, so I just keep reading biographies to get ideas. The ones I’ve read have been so strikingly different.
- I don’t read much fiction. I also don’t watch much tv. I feel like it’s wasting my time to let my brain be filled with nonsense. Not that fiction is bad, in fact, some of it is pretty incredible. But since I only spend a small amount of time reading much of anything, I try to keep to topics that I find valuable.
- My great-grandmother’s first name was Ida. My grandma would tell stories about her where folks would refer to her as Idie. Ironically, that’s what Ida Herwick’s husband in this book calls his wife! Also in the category of names-the-same, Ida Herwick has a son named Oren. Oren happens to be the name of my grandfather on the other side of my family. There’s also a son named Paul, sames as my dad. It’s uncanny, I tell you. This is my great-grandmother, Ida:
Ida is a long book and had potential to be quite boring. I mean, in the middle of the book, you do feel a bit like “the winter was hard, the Herwicks moved to a new town, and Ida was pregnant again” chapter after chapter… but a few things kept my interest:
- Each section of the book starts with bullet points of local and national historical facts. It gives the Herwick story perspective amidst the history and settlement of our country. It also lends insight into the extensive research Ms. McManus did for her story.
- The author does an excellent job of relating the story to the land. Like my own roots in West Virginia, the story of settlers in Colorado is very much about their relationship with the land. And with the current “boom” in shale gas exploration, the stories of mining, timber, and agricultural development ring true even in our own time.
- My word for this year is simplify. It’s like a new year’s resolution all packaged up into a single word. Pretty much only a caveman story could put my head in a better place for focusing on the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, family, God. Life in Colorado at the turn of the century was very simply about keeping warm, preserving enough food for the winter, and taking care of the family.
McManus, C. (1999). Ida: Her labor of love. Ouray, Colo: Western Reflections.