Book Review: Dear America: My Face to the Wind, the Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher (Broken Bow, Nebraska 1881) by Jim Murphy

myfaceSarah Jane is dragged all the way to Broken Bow, Nebraska by her father who was planned to teach there. Tragically, her father dies, leaving her an orphan with nothing, stranded in Broken Bow. The innkeeper with whom Sarah Jane and her father had stayed knows that Sarah Jane will soon have no money to pay room and board and does not want to take care of the girl, so she and her priest try to send Sarah away to a workhouse for girls. This idea mortifies poor Sarah, and she is determined to keep her independence in Broken Bow. With the help of a quirky and talkative new girlfriend, Sarah realizes that she has all of her father’s books, can read and write, and has watched her father teach for years. She begins to consider taking her father’s place as the schoolteacher of Broken Bow. This idea is met with much opposition from some of the adults and officials in the town, but she is eventually successful in persuading them.

Unfortunately, Sarah has to put up with the innkeeper’s and the priest’s scathing words and judgments about her, because they would have preferred to send her away. Sarah tolerates this cruel and unfair treatment rather politely and patiently, which was infuriating to read at times. To make matters worse, the schoolhouse is hardly habitable as a filthy, dilapidated wreck of an unfinished hut. But Sarah tries her best to recruit, teach, and discipline her new students through much trial and error, and eventually becomes a great teacher, demonstrating her skill with and care for her students. A very good book in the series.