Ah, always nice to get back to Willa Cather. I think with the reading of this one that I've read all her books except a few of her short stories. I'm wondering how long I can hold out before I begin re-reading them all.
Anyway this book is a sort of meditation on the life of a woman named Myra Henshawe, as seen through the eyes of the much younger Nellie Birdseye. Myra was quite popular in her small, midwestern town and an especial friend Nellie's Aunt Lydia. Myra elopes, against the wishes of her uncle and is disinherited. But she makes a good life for herself—well the hard work of her husband, Oswald, does—in New York city. Teenage Nellie meets her once when Myra comes by to visit the town where she grew up and where Nellie lives. They meet again when Nellie and Aunt Lydia stay with the Henshawes for a week or so during their Christmas holidays.
Some ten years later, out in San Francisco, where she has gone to study, Nellie again runs into Myra. Oswald, has fallen on hard times, and they are not so well off. In addition, Myra has become an invalid. Nellie rekindles their friendship.
So, there's not lots of action: no explosions, no sword fights, no hot archer chicks. Just glimpses of the lives of ordinary people some 100 years ago. Glimpses which are very beautifully and poignantly written, and which detail people's motivations, triumphs, and failures.
Some day, I hope to find Miss Garner, my 11th-grade English teacher and apologize to her for having snickered at the thought of Willa Cather ("that midwestern hick") back when I was a callow teenager. Willa Cather is one of my five or ten favorite authors, right up there with Murakami, Dickens, and Shute.