So what prompted me to finally pick it up? I had sent it as a present to this young person a while back and on our recent trip to see him and his family I found it on a shelf among some of their other books. Sad to report, I don't think grandson B has read it yet though he is an avid reader and always has his nose in a book.
School had already started when we visited so there was ample time for me to bury my nose in a book. I picked up The Yearling just to read a few sample pages and could not put it down.
Why do we read? I read because I love stories and because I am constantly awed by the myriad and magical ways good writers put words together. I also love to write and, by reading the works of talented writers, there's an outside chance some of their magic will find its way into my writing. The talent of the writer is what carries the story along and I became lost in Rawlings' world of life in earlier times in Florida.
Her characters did not come to Florida for the sunshine, for Spring Break or the beaches, or to live out their declining years in air conditioned comfort. They were born here or blown here by circumstance. Life was hard and rations scarce. The native animals struggled to survive from one season to the next just as the people did. If a hungry bear killed your heifer, life got even harder. If you were bitten by a rattlesnake you'd better hope the doc was home, and sober, and that you could get to him fast. And if a hurricane happened by it was touch and go if you'd survive to pick up the pieces. It was a lonesome existance out in the swamp for young Jody, his dad, Penny, and Ma Baxter. But he was loved, and he loved nature and all its wonders as much as his dad did. Penny had grown up working hard from early childhood and wanted to make life a little less harsh for his only son, so when Jody found an orphaned fawn, Penny persuaded Ma Baxter to let him keep it though she, of the sharp tongue, thought it was enough of a struggle to feed themselves and their animals without taking on the care and feeding of a wild creature. Penny however knew that the belly is not the only part of us that needs feeding. He knew that caring for that orphan fawn would feed his son's soul.
I had to leave the last few chapters unread when our visit came to an end, and the book was not immediately available at the library here. I have now read to the end (and wept, as I remember my middle son doing when he watched the movie as a little boy). It made us weep, but her writing is never maudlin. The heartbreak in the story was just part of life. I wouldn't hesitate to call this one of my all-time favorite books. Read it B! You'll be glad you did.
A few days after I finished "The Yearling" I happened to read in the newspaper about another, totally different writer, Sebastian Junger, a journalist who has been a war correspondent in conflicts around the world. He directed the documentary "Restrepo" and has written a new book, "Tribe, On Homecoming and Belonging," which explores social alienation and lessons from tribal cultures. In explaining why soldiers and Peace Corp volunteers often find themselves depressed when they come home he says "... humans are social primates....wired to live and operate and feel secure in close groups. Wealthier societies are more individualized and we are not really wired for that.......As societies get wealthier the suicide rate goes up. Depression goes up........people come home and find themselves depressed..........stemming from the transition from a close, communal living situation to (an) alienated, individual one back home."
Are you with me still? I know I seem to have wandered from the point. I do have one, though it is bit woolly.Maybe because I had so recently finished The Yearling, Junger's thoughts seemed connected to what I had gleaned from that book.We are wealthier and better educated than any of the characters in the book but the fact that the story resonated with me so much tells me, as if I hadn't known this already, that many of us would forego our modern toys and conveniences for a simpler life, closer to the earth, and with deeper connections to each other.
In explaining some of the harsher aspects of living (his mother's sharp tongue, for example)to his son Penny has this this to say ---
"You kin tame a 'coon. You kin tame a bear. You kin tame a wild-cat and you kin tame a panther." He pondered. His mind went back to his father's sermons. "You kin tame anything, son, excusin' the human tongue."
We have not changed from the times Rawlings wrote of. We all yearn to belong. Ease and comfort don't make us as happy as we think they should. We miss our tribe. Even though Jody, Penny and Ma Baxter teetered on the brink of poverty most of the time, they were not depressed. They were too busy staying alive, too tired at the end of each day and too happy to have made their way successfully through it to be depressed. They also had wealth beyond the material. They had the love and support of each other, mutual respect and co-operation with their neighbors, and an appreciation of, and respect for, the boundless beauty and natural resources of the world we live in. In today's fractured society how many of us are that well off?