Jem Perkins has it all – money, a fine house, a handsome husband, and a new baby boy. But when her family fortunes turn, Jem’s husband Seth leads her to a new home: a sod house on a Nebraska homestead.
It is a season of growth for Jem as she reluctantly confronts her new realities: back-breaking labor, dangerous illness, and mind-numbing isolation. She learns to embrace her new role as a capable woman and marriage partner and discovers an awareness of God’s hand in her life.
Then, on January 12, 1888, the history-making Children’s Blizzard sweeps across the land, ushering in a season of hardship she never expected. Can Jem’s confidence, marriage, and new-found faith weather the storm?
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: Kirkdale Press
RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2016
“The prairie. It’s like a … child. A spoiled child.”
The prairie might be like a spoiled child, throwing fits whenever it pleases – blizzards, droughts, illness, grasshoppers. But Jemima Perkins certainly fit that description as well when the book begins. Though married and with a baby of her own, Jem is still very much coddled – and controlled – by her wealthy father. Her first weeks on the prairie … well, let’s just say they go about like you’d think they would.
Once she gets past her spoiled cluelessness, she surprised me with her strength and resilience. I know that I personally would have thrown in the proverbial towel right about the time the mud fell from the CEILING onto my FACE while I was SLEEPING. And the fact that Jem had to learn to keep the lid firmly on the pot while cooking SO THE MUD WOULDN’T DROP FROM THE CEILING INTO DINNER?!? All kinds of nope. And if it wasn’t the mud, it was the mildew all over everything – clothes, food, books. No, thank you.
Jem’s husband Seth is a good man – strong in character, ethical, compassionate, smart, not afraid to work hard – the kind of husband you definitely want with you in the event that you find yourself moving to a sod house on the prairie. But, in all honesty, he acts a bit like a spoiled child in many ways too. Not as obviously as Jem perhaps, and not in the same way, but he does pout. Quite well. He also wears a grudge like a well-worn coat but seems to take it off and on when it suits him.
Jem & Seth’s relationship isn’t hearts and roses, though there is some flirting here and there, especially early on. Loving each other may have been based on flutters and blushes and romance at first, but life on the prairie is too harsh for a marriage built on those flimsy qualities to survive. And, frankly, there are moments when I doubt that it will. Watching their love develop into something more mature, stronger, deeper – something built on a daily choice when the feelings were long gone – is one of the beautiful things to come out of the prairie’s weathering in this novel.
I really hope Whither Thou Goest I Will Go becomes the first in a series. There are several stories I want to know “the rest of”. For starters, the brief reappearance of Jem’s friend Kate is not nearly extensive enough to appease my curiosity about her own marriage. Also, what happens to Jem’s sister after we last see her during the Children’s Blizzard? And what about Jem’s father? These are questions I must know the answers to!
Bottom Line: There are no easy answers to the questions which are cried out to God from lives beaten down by the harshness of a Nebraskan prairie. Naomi Dathan doesn’t presume to give any in Whither Thou Goest I Will Go. Instead, she paints a compelling and authentic picture of a marriage, a family, a community of neighbors, a faith – all struggling to survive as nature does its worst. Some survive intact. None come through it unscathed. Inspiring character growth, poignant history, and the reminder that God provides (even if His provision doesn’t look like we think it should). Fans of Janette Oke and Jane Kirkpatrick will also enjoy Whither Thou Goest I Will Go.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Enjoyed it!
Naomi Dathan has been fascinated with prairie life since her third grade teacher read Little House in the Big Woods to the class. She finally indulged this fascination with her fourth novel, Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go. When she’s not writing, she spends her time painting, singing and being entertained by her two daughters, two beagles and two rabbits.
Other Books by Kirkdale Press
What about you? Does a sod house sound like an adventure or a nightmare to you?