Tuesday, August 11, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: When Life Was Young: At the Old Farm in Maine by C.A. Stephens

 After the thrilling dark historical mystery, The Black Friar by S.G. MacClean, I changed gears and read the simple, old-fashioned story, When Life Was Young: At the Old Farm in Maine by C.A. Stephens. Written in 1912 and available as a free download at the Gutenberg Project, this is a sweet memoir about a young adolescent boy’s first year on his grandfather’s farm in Maine. The boy’s father (and the fathers of some of his cousin’s, sons of the grandfather) died in the Civil War, and the children, male and female cousins, six in all, were sent to live with their grandparents. 

The story is told by “Edmund’s son,” the last of the children to arrive. He is twelve years old, the youngest of the boys, older than two of his female cousins. Terribly homesick at first, he adapts to life on the farm, helped first by the novelty and then by the close-knit family and homespun adventure. Despite the hard work and some difficulties with one particular cousin, it’s a good life for a child.

The book takes the reader through nearly a year of Maine farm life. The work is described in detail, as are the “simple pleasures:” a fair, a camping trip, fishing, and a game of hoarding apples that has the whole family taking part good-naturedly in some petty thievery. 

There is some similarity to The Little House books, except that this is a boy’s recollections and the people stay put in the East. The grown narrator does a fair amount of retrospective moralizing but, overall, captures well the mind-set of a shy young boy coming of age in a safe haven following tragedy. A sweet book and a pleasant read.

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