Let the Hurricane Roar by Rose Wilder Lane is the story of a young couple, Charles and Caroline, as they struggle to survive their first year on the prairie. Very young and in love, they face whatever hardships come their way with determination, confidence in themselves and each other, and pride. Together they experience leaving their birth families (forever?), the birth of their first child, the making of their first home in a soddy, planning and dreaming about their future home together, a devastating loss when a horde of grasshoppers consumes their wheat crop, and finally, a period of separation when Charles must return east to look for work while Caroline remains behind to hold their claim. The thought running through my mind while reading this was that there is no way I could stand up to all the challenges that Caroline, a couple of decades younger than I, faced. No way. I’d collapse under the stress the first
week day, I’m afraid. I’m really not sure what made the pioneers so strong, other than necessity. Well, that, and life was just harder all the way around then. Still, though, some of them did break under the strain; reading Giants in the Earth disabused me of the notion that every pioneer survived their ordeals with aplomb. (You can read my thoughts about Giants in the Earth here. This was one of my first reviews on my blog, and I like to think I’ve improved since then. 🙂 )
The second and more powerful thing that impressed me about Let the Hurricane Roar is what a powerful picture of married love it presents. This is a true romance, one that I would hand over without hesitation to anyone who even remotely enjoys the genre. (For the record, romance ranks somewhere above horror stories and supernatural thrillers but below almost everything else in my list of favorites, but I really do like this one.) The thing that turns me off to romance–the sappiness–is almost entirely absent in this story, in my opinion. In fact, Lane writes with a very restrained hand; the tone is one of almost objective observation rather than involved emotion. While I can certainly appreciate how forlorn Caroline feels at time without Charles (and rightly so! I mean, this young woman is surviving on her own with a baby in a soddy in the middle of a blizzard!), I never felt like my emotions were being manipulated, and I appreciate that very much.
Although Lane‘s tone is subdued, this doesn’t detract from the overall style with which she describes the lives of the settlers. Here are a few snippets I particularly like:
On Sundays they did not work, and Charles played only hymns. It was splendid to see and hear him, roaring out his favorite to the wind that howled in the stovepipe. Then Caroline read to him. Charles was a slow reader, but he liked to listen while Caroline read aloud. She read the Bible, and she read Tennyson’s Poems. That winter she read the green-and-gilt book from cover to cover. It made their life even more rich and beautiful. (17)
Kneeling by the bunk, she squeezed [the baby’s] wriggling body between her raw hands, she rolled and tumbled him and buried her rough face in his softness, in the warm perfume of his baby body His fist tugged painfully at her hair and she laughed, teasing his nose with the loosened ends. She had begun to be almost as gay as Charles. She wondered, “Is Charles gay because he’s frightened, because he has to be brave?”
There was always the ache of incompleteness without him. The shapeless dread might at any moment stab her with a question. But day by day the baby and she survived, and in the dugout the howling winds, the cold and snow and dark could not touch them. Her gayety was a defiance. (131-32)
I haven’t read much about Rose Wilder Lane, though I am a little bit familiar with a bit of the controversy surrounding her ghost authorship/contribution/whatever to her mother’s Little House books. All I know after reading this story is that she is one author I enjoy and whose other books I’d like to read. I did notice when I went back and read Carrie’s review of Let the Hurricane Roar (which I scrupulously avoided at the time since I was planning to read it soon) that the protagonists in the story underwent a name change at some point; they are Molly and David in the edition Carrie read. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, the story was first published as a serial and then as the novel I read; later it was reissued as Young Pioneers with Molly and David instead of Caroline and Charles. It seems that Laura’s family’s story and the story Rose Wilder Lane wrote got all jumbled up somehow, but since I’m not reading this for pure historical accuracy, I’m okay with all that. It’s still an amazing and beautifully written story. My girls are avid Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, so when Lulu saw that I was reading this, she picked it up and wanted to read it herself. Although I am not ready to hand this off to my seven year old just yet because of the emotionally and relationally intimate nature of Charles and Caroline’s relationship (there’s nothing physically graphic here, but it really is a depiction of a good marriage), I won’t hesitate to give it to her in a few years. Highly Recommended. (My copy was published by Longmans, Green and Co. in 1933.)
I read this book for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge at Stray Thoughts. Although this book isn’t by Laura, my reading of it was definitely inspired by our fondness for her works.