October 08, 2011

Dear America: West to a Land of Plenty by Jim Murphy

I kept hearing about these Dear America books and how they were very interesting and fantastic, so I decided why not check them out? Sure they are children/young adult books but even fully grown I'm still a bit of a kid at heart so that never bothers me. And with this being the first one I encountered, I thought it was ok; not stupendous, but still very readable.

Teresa and her family are on their way west to a place called Opportunity. After her uncle had noticed a flyer saying that fortunes could be made and good land could be farmed, he convinced her father to go and that was that. Teresa, her sister Netty, her grandmother, brothers, and parents took off. They first traveled by train as far west as they could go and from there set out by wagon pulled by oxen. It is a hard trip and a lot happens to Teresa and her family, but there's no good way to turn home so they must persevere despite all hardship.

This book is mainly told through the eyes of Teresa, and on occasion her sister Netty. While they are both strong female characters, I found that I wasn't really taken with either of them. Teresa was kind of gloomy, but despite that I still liked her better than her sister. Maybe its just being the older sibling but I found Netty to be extremely annoying and disliked when the book was in her view.

The book is written in diary format (hence the "Dear America") and while this is not my favorite format it was pretty easy to read. I did enjoy Teresa's entries more than Netty's but that's probably because I liked her better as a characters. In non diary format there was an epilogue but it was so small that it didn't really change the dynamic of the book. The trip was interesting but full of historical inaccuracies. Granted most of the younger people reading this would never realize this fact, but I think if you're going to write a book based on history, do a little research first. Once I got over this error though the book was very interesting and I liked the concept of the book.

I'll probably end up reading more Dear America books. They're interesting, if the research is done right probably informative, and I think that its a good book for a family to share. If I ever have kids I'll probably choose this as a book to share with them.

West to a Land of Plenty
Copyright 1998
201 pages including maps, pictures, and information at the back of the book

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