Caroline Miller’s Lamb in His Bosom is a tale of women in the Georgia-Florida woods country in the 1800s when time was measured in tombstones. These women endured incredible hardship to raise families.
Cean Carver is a pretty 16-year-old when she marries Lonzo Smith and moves to the farm he’s clearing for the family they are to raise.
While Lonzo goes to plant, Cean cares for the cabin, garden and animals before gladly joining him under the baking sun. They are poor, but Cean feels herself rich.
Children are born.
Before the first son, a series of girls, worthless as farm laborers, are born. Cean ages by years with every birth.
When Lonzo dies, Cean is left with 14 children to raise.
She marries a preacher newly come to the settlement. Cean hasn’t gotten used to her new name when her husband goes off to minister to soldiers in blue and gray. When he limps home after Appomattox, they are both white-haired and old.
Miller’s novel leaves a lasting impression of wiry women made indomitable by faith. In ordinary times, their faith is as unconsidered as breathing. In trouble, they “throw . . . back into God’s eternal face” His promise to never forsake them.
They are lambs in His bosom.
Lamb in His Bosom
By Caroline Miller
Grosset & Dunlap, 1933
1932 bestseller #2
My grade B+
Photo credit: Lamb by magdaro
© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni
Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s poignant novel The Yearling hails from an era when a novel about growing up didn’t have to be about sex. Its realism, craftsmanship, and age-old truths will keep it alive when most contemporary coming-of-age novels are forgotten.
Only one of Penny and Ora Baxter’s children, Jody, lived past infancy. Jody’s12-year-old irresponsibility is a thorn in Ora’s flesh. Penny keeps Jody away from his wife’s sharp tongue, giving him leave to slip off the woods instead of doing chores.
The Baxters are almost as poor as the Florida scrub land they farm. Their corn and tobacco crops have to be supplemented by hunting game to eat and to trade for necessities. There’s not even a mouthful to spare for Jody to feed a pet, as desperately as Jody begs for something that will belong just to him.
When Penny and Jody go in search of their missing hogs, Penny is bitten by a rattlesnake. He shoots a doe and puts her warm liver over the snake punctures to draw the venom. When Penny recovers, Jody reminds his father the doe had a fawn. Penny lets Jody fetch the fawn home as a pet.
The fawn, Flag, becomes Jody’s devoted companion, it is nothing but a pest to his mother. When Flag becomes a yearling, its behavior is no longer just a nuisance; it threatens the family’s survival.
Rawlings’ characters are vivid and vital. Jody is unmistakably12, swinging between childishness and manliness, passionate in his likes and dislikes. Penny and Ora are a familiar couple. They fuss about trifles, unite against troubles. Penny’s charity is antidote for his wife’s sharp tongue.
Jody has to accept loneliness as part of the cost of survival, but in the process he also learns to value his family. There are worse trade-offs.
By Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1938 bestseller #1
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni