My Face to the Wind
by Jim Murphy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My Face to the Wind (Nebraska) / 0-590-43810-7
When her father, a professional school teacher, dies unexpectedly from a plague that sweeps through the new town, Sarah Jane Price finds herself completely alone and orphaned. Although the lady she boards with is kind and solicitous, she is eager to be rid of Sarah Jane and considers it her "Christian duty" to ship the young girl off to an orphanage, where she will perform hard labor six days out of the week and wear herself thin with weak meals and little love. Sarah rebels against this plan and audaciously suggests that she replace her deceased father as the new school teacher - she has, she argues, the proper credentials and she is, she lies, of the appropriate age.
This novel follows closely the trials she faces. She is lonely, without a father or family, and she is despised by many of the townspeople who do not believe she is "humble" enough, and that a woman should not be a teacher. Many of her students refuse to take learning seriously, believing that farmers don't need education. Sarah wins over their hearts, surviving in impossible teaching conditions (including a sod school house which is literally falling apart), and winning over her students and their parents with her indomitable spirit.
More than anything, this book reminded me strongly of the "Little House on the Prairie" books, particularly the ones that feature so strongly Laura's days at her school. This diary realistically portrays the daily life and dangers on the prairie - the disease, the hard work, the scarce wood, the transient towns, the traveling ministers, and the colorful characters that graced our country's history.
~ Ana Mardoll
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