Book Review: Dear America: Land of the Buffalo Bones, The Diary of Mary Ann Elizabeth Rodgers, An English Girl in Minnesota (New Yeovil, Minnesota 1873) by Marion Dane Bauer

buffaloIn this unforgettable DA tale, Mary, her family, and others from her English hometown and church, led by her father– their pastor–, are duped into purchasing land and settling on the plains of Minnesota. They are promised rich soil, fertile ground, beautiful weather, and the tools for prosperity and a good life, but instead are met by deadly snowstorms, disease, pestilence, and a severe lack of resources to build their town. Their ordeals were eerie and haunting, particularly one disturbing scene involving the infamous grasshopper plague.

On the personal level, Mary struggles with being her father’s child from his previous marriage. After her mother passed away, he remarried and had more children with his new wife, Mary’s step-mom, who is more or less a bland or cold figure towards Mary in the beginning (but for whom, by the end, Mary develops a genuine, albeit rather subtle, respect and admiration). Also memorable in this book is Mary’s little half-sister, Laura, a cruel and vindictive little child always jealous of her older sister, and who is interestingly based off of the author’s actual grandmother. As well, Mary has a friend in this story who develops a romance with a Native American man. I have also read about some controversy regarding the damage Mary’s father, the preacher, and his poor leadership, did to his people, most of whom gave up everything they had in England to come there to die, or worse. Yet Mary is still faithful to her father and feels sorry for him throughout the book. This is one of the better books in the series and I learned a lot from it.