My Antonia by Willa Cather
"I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." p. 11-12
I read My Antonia while staying in a cabin in Utah. We were en route to moving from green, lush, rainy Seattle to flat, hot, humid Texas. I sat outside the cabin with my book and watched the Quaking Aspen Tree's leaves tremble in the wind. I fell in love with the way Cather described nature. The memory of reading this book has stayed with me for fifteen years. I completely related to the narrator, Jim Burden, who had to move from a place he loved to a land quite different from what he was used to.
He meets a Antonia, a young girl from an immigrant family, who is trying to farm the untamed land in Nebraska. Antonia is a hopeful girl who has to endure many hardships. This story is about their friendship and their struggles growing up.
I read this at the beginning of the summer before going to college. So I took every opportunity to learn more about Cather's work when assignments permitted me. I gave presentaions about her, took Western Lit. classes, and even took a class from a professor who also adored her.
Several years ago I suggested this book for our book club. At the beginning of our discussion someone said, "Yeah, it was okay. I just don't understand what the big deal was or why you chose it." This novel was so personal to me it really upset me to hear her say this. What I've come to realize is that our personal life can greatly affect our reading experience. If a character is struggling or dealing with the same issues or appreciates the same values as we do, then the connection is as real as if we were identifying with a real person.
Has this ever happened to you? What books have you strongly identified with? Did others agree or disagree with you?