Today’s guest review is from Laura at 125Pages.com
Rating: 3 Stars
Welcome to another installment of the United States of Books! See full details here. Today we will visit Florida with The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Entertainment Weekly say’s “Working with Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s editor, Rawlings was pushed to look into her own history for literary fodder, which led to her 1938 Pulitzer winner about a Florida boy and his pet deer.”
The Yearling is a book I have heard about over the years, but was never super interested in reading. I could guess the outcome of a book centered around a young boy and his pet deer living on a hardscrabble farm in the 1870’s. I had read Old Yeller and seen Bambi, I knew what was coming. So I wasn’t thrilled when the random picking for the United States of Books challenge offered me up The Yearling. I don’t think I can really spoil a book that is over 75 years old, but just in case, I will only say I was right about the ending. However, I was mistaken about how I would feel about the book as a whole.
The tale of the Jody, Ora and Ezra “Penny” Baxter is not one of an easy life. Farming a small plot of land in central Florida, they hunt and trade for what they need. Jody is the only child of seven born, who lived past the age of three. Trailing his pa and learning to do what is necessary to survive, Jody wants nothing more than a pet to call his own. Then on a hunt, he finds a small deer and is determined to make it his own. Flag soon becomes part of the family and even goes on hunts with Jody and his father. Weaving around the story of the fawn and his boy was the epic hunt of a troublesome bear, a snakebite, and a very unique cast of characters.
Now that I have read it, I am glad I had the chance to, as some of the writing was just lyrical. Especially the parts describing the land surrounding the farm.
Around a bend in the road, the dry growth of pines and scrub oak disappeared. There was a new lushness. Sweet gums and bay were here, and, like sign-posts indicating the river, cypress. Wild azaleas were blooming late in the low places, and the passion flower opened its lavender corollas along the road.
I could see why this was EW’s Florida pick as the location was almost a secondary character in the story. The wildlife and flora inhabited every scene.
The fall fruits were not yet ripe, papaw and gallberry and persimmon. The mast of the pines, the acorns of the oaks, the berries of the palmetto, would not be ready until the first frost. The deer were feeding on the tender growth, bud of sweet bay and of myrtle, sprigs of wire-grass, tips of arrowroot in the ponds and prairies, and succulent lily stems and pads. The type of food kept them in the low, wet places, the swamps, the prairies and the bay-heads.
Unfortunately, the jarring difference between the lyrical descriptions and the regional dialect of the characters when they spoke, made this a difficult read for me. The way they thought in their heads did not match the words they said and this made the transitions very hard. I would almost prefer a read like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where, while there were numerous regional dialects, all the characters thought and spoke in them. When you read a description as beautiful as the one above then the very next life is something along the lines of “Don’t go gittin faintified on me.”, it pulls you out to the story and throws a wrench in your pacing.
The Yearling had some amazing moments with the descriptions by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It is not a book that I would personally read again as the storyline is not what I enjoy and the transitions between characters thinking and speaking was too harsh. For the time it was written though, I can see why it received such high praise. It contained heartbreak, action and basic human survival tempered by a strong family bond.
Favorite lines – “A mark was on him from the day’s delight, so that all his life, when April was a thin green and the flavor of rain was on his tongue, an old wound would throb and a nostalgia would fill him for something he could not quite remember.”
Have you read The Yearling, or added it to your TBR?