Saturday, September 28, 2002

The Wind Blows Free by Loula Grace Erdman

1952/2006, Bethlehem Books, 271 pages, softcover

After Papa's store burns down in East Texas, the Pierce family decides to take up farming and moves to the wilds of the Texas Panhandle where life is challenging and money is tight. Papa has built a "dugout" cabin and the family makes do with circumstances far different from those to which they are accustomed.

The Panhandle in the 1890s is quite barren - just a few ranchers and cowboys about and hardly a tree to be found. It's a tough land to survive in, especially for farming families like the Pierces. They grow accustomed to things they would never have dreamed of in the past - like collecting old cattle bones to sell, burning "cow chips" for fuel and living with a dirt floor. But somehow they learn to appreciate their homemade Christmas, the dependability of the cowboys and "the wind that blows free."

15 year old Melinda is the particular heroine of the story. She is reluctant to leave her grandmother, her school and her close friends. The new life is hard and strange and some days she just can't seem to get anything right.

This is a delightful family story with plenty of adventure and just a bit of romance. I really didn't want it to end (and not many books have that effect on me). My daughter and I especially enjoyed the balance between living simply and appreciating education. The "homemade Christmas" was a particular favorite - quite inspiring actually!

Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke (12-06)
Available from All Catholic Books and Emmanuel Books

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