Review of Mail Order Millie by Katie Crabapple
As I started reading this homespun romance I didn’t expect to enjoy the read but, as an author, I often read for reasons other than plain enjoyment. I’d decided that I should become more well-rounded in the small town romance genre and this book looked like a good place to start.
But something happened as I read.I became increasingly annoyed with the author because I felt that this unusually detailed account of the daily life of a pioneer woman in early Minnesota might not be realistic in that the author was turning Millie into something no woman could be. Wonder Woman. I don’t know anyone who can scrub down log walls and bake bread while doing the laundry by hand. And it bothered me a tad that the writing wasn’t smooth or polished. It was as simplistic as if I was reading a pioneer woman’s journal, except it was in third person.
Now let me make something clear. I did not live in those times (I’m not quite that old) but my mother did, having lived as a child in Hibbing Minnesota during the boom times. She learned to cook on a wood stove and started caring for her younger siblings when she was five. Though she later earned her Masters and was in Who’s Who in American Education and was an extremely competent, hard-working and efficient person, I doubt she was physically capable of accomplishing all that Millie did in the book. I doubt anyone could have done all those things to quickly, efficiently and easily. They’d have passed out from sheer exhaustion.
I also wondered whether any devout Christian woman would have felt quite so subservient to her husband as Millie did. In fact became a tad irritated with Millie and wanted to slap her upside the head until she stopped being so hard on herself for being every bit as irritated with her husband for being chauvinist as I was.
Then I realized something. I’d forgotten that I was reading for research. I was into the story. More, I was into the characters enough that I wanted to intervene and thump on someone’s head.. anyone’s head, either the hero or the heroine… until they stopped being so dense, even though I knew all along that everything would end happily.
Well! That says something!
I guess the book was better than I thought. In fact, now that I’m done with it, I look back and am very glad I read it and will remember it for a long time, and not only because it was an interesting and very detailed description of the daily life of a pioneer Minnesota woman.
Maybe I’m prejudiced. My mom was much like the oldest daughter in the story. My grandmother was very sick so she gave instructions that my mother, as a child, carried out so the housework got done and the kids were cared for. Okay, there were differences. They lived in town instead of a log cabin and my grandfather was the school superintendent instead of a farmer so things weren’t as tough for my mom as they were for Millie. Still, there’s a similarity and I think I’ll shoot this book over to my mom to read because I think she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Oh my goodness! I doubt I’ve ever given a book that wasn’t extremely well written as good a review as I have this one. Or was the writing better than I realized and I just didn’t see it? I’ll always wonder.