When I finished reading Willa Cather’s novel One Of Ours it came as no surprise that in 1923 the novel was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Cather lived from 1873 to 1947. She was born in West Virginia but grew up in Nebraska thus the wonderfully evocative setting for this novel.
At the turn of the 20th century the generation that inherited the pioneering industry of Nebraska’s homesteaders found themselves prospering beyond the dreams of their forebears. Fortunes were made and the Wheeler family was among the most successful with hundreds of acres of wheat, corn and abundant range. Wheeler son Claude, by the time he was 21, had attained everything imaginable, a wife, beautiful home and a future inheritance. However, within this young man there was an emptiness , a feeling of failure, a lack of romance and a predictability that would surely deny an unfulfilled destiny.
Cather’s beautiful writing flows through the seasons on the great plains in Technicolor but though it all evolves a restlessness within Claude that separates him from the ordinary. So the evolution of this young man unfolds , carrying him to France and then the trenches of Verdun.
Of course, there must be much of Cather herself in these pages remembering that she lived out her life in New York City, far from the fields of Nebraska where she grew up in this pre-war era. The gathering storm of the First World War was glorified by Over There and The Yanks Are Coming and Claude, the boy from the plains, now a young man, heard in the call to war a glimpse of his destiny and made his decision to enlist, to see what life in a larger world might offer. Your time will be well spent joining Claude on his journey, one that many make in their lifetime.
Willa Cather wrote 12 novels, including One of Ours. Others of note are O Pioneers, My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop. Cather may be an author you have overlooked. Find the time to enjoy her writing.