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A New Home, Who'll Follow? Or, Glimpses Of Western Life
by Caroline M. Kirkland
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From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Leslie Thompson-Scott
A New Home Who'll Follow, or Glimpses of Western Life broke ground in early nineteenth-century American writing for its forthright realism and keenly satiric narrative style. Using her own experience of moving to an unsettled village in Michigan in the 1830s, Caroline Kirkland not only describes the life and times of individuals immersed in the growth and establishment of a community, but she also subtly imbues her text with a sophisticated cultural criticism. As a displaced Easterner and a newly identified Westerner, writing under the name "Mary Clavers," she describes mud holes, drunken husbands, local politics, and Victorian American values in her witty and often sharply ironic voice: "I should be disposed to recommend a course of Michigan to the Sybarites, the puny exquisites, the world-worn and sated Epicureans of our cities. If I mistake not, they would make surprising advances in philosophy in the course of a few months' training." The idea for her regional description of village life was sparked when her friends responded enthusiastically to the letters she was posting from Pickney, Michigan, renamed in the book Montacute. When the book was published, however, she found that her satirizations of her neighbors' clothing, habits, romantic illusions, and gender conventions got her in so much trouble with her small community that she vowed she would never be so honest in her writing again. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
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