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O Pioneers! (Paperback)
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Willa Cather published her second novel, "O Pioneers " in 1913 at the age of 40. Together with "My Antonia," "O Pioneers " is the novel for which she is best known. The book takes place on the plains of Nebraska in the late 19th Century as the Prairie is settled be Swedish, Bohemian, and French immigrants trying to eke out a living from what appears to be a harsh, inhospitable land. The heroine of the book is Alexandra Bergson, who inherits her father's farm as a young woman, raises his three sons and stays with the farm through the harsh times to become a successful landowner and farmer. The book speaks of being wedded to the land and to place. In this sense it is an instance of the American dream of a home. It also speaks of a strong woman, of thwarted love, of the difficult nature of sexuality, and of human passion. There is also the beginning of what in Cather's works will become an increased sense of religion as a haven and a solace for the sorrow she finds at the heart of human endeavor. Above all it is a picture of stark life in the Midwest. There is almost as much blood-letting in this short book as in an Elizabethan tragedy. Cather's picture of American life on the plains, even in her earliest books, is not an easy or simple one. Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book, though Alexandra's happiness is not only bittersweet, but dearly bought. "O Pioneers " is a thoughtful, well written story of immigrant life on the plains and of the sorrow pain, and strength of the American experience.