Finding the Gold
The Long Winter is a remarkable, true story of the best and worst traits in man when he is tested to his limits. It is told from the viewpoint of a young girl. I had not read long into the book, when I realized this girl was different. She saw the world through the eyes of an artist. She saw the potential, questioned, analyzed, imagined. The only person in the family who has the same artist's soul is her father. The rest of the family has no idea who she is. She presents an honest view of herself with her flaws, her impatience.
A thread through the entire book is the music. It lifts them up when the storm is howling around the house, unites them. In chapter 30, toward the end of the book, life had become a numb routine of twisting hay to burn in the stove and grinding wheat. "Laura and Pa were holding their stiff, swollen red hands over the stove, Ma was cutting the coarse brown bread for supper. The blizzard was loud and furious. "It can't beat us!" Pa said. "Can't it, Pa?" Laura asked stupidly. "No," said Pa. "It's got to quit sometime and we don't. It can't lick us. We won't give up." Then Laura felt a warmth inside her...it was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up."
That is the turning point in the story: the power of words in the human condition. In all the suffering and hardship, Laura finds the gold - what makes life matter. I am an artist and relate personally to Laura. As a child, I had the same giant imagination and questioning mind and was surrounded by people who did not know me. My Father, like Laura's, was an artist and did know me. Her story goes beyond a pioneer tale of hardship and survival. She gets to the heart of the human soul, to what matters. Young people need to read this book. In an age of "me first" this book speaks in poetic. beautiful language about the power and necessity of loving one another.