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Winter Wheat Paperback – December 1, 1992
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With an arid "dry-land" wheat farm as both its geographic and metaphoric center, Winter Wheat tells the story of eighteen-year-old Ellen Webb. Her Vermont-born father and Russian-born mother, married during the first World War, have come as homesteaders to Barton, Montana - a grain-elevator and general store. It is 1940, the year Ellen will start college if the wheat harvest is good; it is September, "like a quiet day after a whole week of wind. I mean that wind that blows dirt into your eyes and hair and between your teeth and roars in your ears after you've gone inside." The harvest pays and Ellen goes off to college, where she immediately falls in love: "I hadn't meant to fall in love so soon, but there's nothing you can do about it. It's like planning to seed in April and then having it come off so warm in March that the earth is ready." Ellen and Gil plan their marriage for after the summer harvest. But Gil arrives and doesn't find Montana or the life of dry-land wheat farmers beautiful. Ellen begins to see everything, including her parents, with new and critical eyes in this unsparing and poignant examination of love and life. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
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A reader of the article shared a favorite beginning of a book: "September is like a quiet day after a whole week of wind. I mean real wind that blows dirt into your eyes and hair and between your teeth and roars in your ears after you've gone inside." Mildred Walker, Winter Wheat.
I HAD to read that book. I was hooked by the first lines and I stayed hooked for the entire book. I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates great writing - and appreciates a great story that leaves you thinking and thinking and thinking. That's what it's done to me.
The main character seems so innocent and sheltered at first, but grows her emotions as the story proceeds. Winter Wheat was written in 1944 and is set in about 1941, I think. It's enjoyable to see how a 1940's author writes on ageless human topics tactfully and compare how a similar topic would be presented today.
On another note, being involved in wheat production on the high plains, it was touching to see how some things stay the same (weather & chaff in my sandwich) and how farming differs today.
The ending didn't jazz me up much, but then this is a literary novel I suppose and quite short on vampires, zombies & princesses. But it's worth a read on a below zero night. Or while waiting at the elevator in the heat swatting flies.