Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Stayed At Welcome by Maud & Delos Lovelace

311 pages
Copyright 1934
The John Day Company
New York, NY

As part of the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge I decided to read some of Maud's adult novels. The first one I picked up was: One Stayed At Welcome, which Maud co-wrote with her husband Delos. Unfortunately One Stayed At Welcome is out of print and thus a difficult book to find. Thankfully I was able to locate a first edition copy through the ILL of my local public library. And honestly, even though I don't get to keep the book, I was really glad I was able to borrow such an old copy. The book smelled incredible. (And as you might have guessed, I just love the smell of old library books.)

The Plot:
"The middle of the nineteenth century was a time when, to thousands of restless men, the newly formed territory was a fairier promised land." (Chpt. 2, page 12)

"One Stayed At Welcome opens with the founding of Welcome by two young men, Larry and Dan, who have made a lasting friendship of the trek from the East. Their little town grows rapidly and within two years many new faces are to be found on the shores of Lake Welcome. Among the varied newcomers is an old school teacher and his daughter Lillie, whom Dan and Larry remember as a little girl playing on the decks of a Mississippi river steamer. Now she is a matured young woman, and before a winter has passed both boys are in love with her. Soon their hidden jealousy flames up in a youthful quarrel and Welcome rocks with the news that Dan and Larry are no longer sharing their joint claim. Their quarrel reaches its climax the night of a great prairie fire, and with it comes a new friendship through mutual self-sacrifice." (Summary courtesy of the publisher)

My Thoughts:
As I mentioned above, One Stayed At Welcome was co-authored by Maud and Delos Lovelace. Of this book Maud once said, "As was usual in our collaborations, I did the research and Delos did most of the plotting. We shared the writing... amicably, too."

It was an interesting experience to read a work by Maud Hart Lovelace that didn't include anything Deep Valley related, to read one of her novels that was intended for an adult auidence (my first), and to read one that was co-written by Delos. From the start of the novel it is evident that Maud was very detailed in her research, right down to the little details like a mention of ads and news articles run in the New York Sun during the early-mid 19th century. (The NY Sun was the newspaper where Delos worked as a journalist for many years.) I also enjoyed watching the story's plot unfold and knowing that Delos was the driving force behind it. I am certain that his input into the book made it that much addition to the book made the story that much richer. As for the writing, I couldn't find where one left off writing and the other began, the story was seamless. Perhaps that is to the credit to the editor, but personally I think it is also equally to the credit to Maud and Delos as a husband and wife writing team.

Although I am not normally a big fan of Westerns, I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this read. And I couldn't agree more with the book's contemporary critics when they stated One Stayed At Welcome was a "richly detailed picture of life on the middle frontier" and that it "vibrates with the buoyant spirit of those exciting years."

As far as objectionable material, this book has very little and I hesitate to mention it. First, there is a small amount of profanity. This is, after all, an adult novel not a children's or young adult novel like those in the Betsy-Tacy series. The story has more "grit" to it, but the profanity that is present is on the mild side and I think realistic to the type of people using it. Second, some readers might object to the attitudes of some of the characters and to the fact that the Native Americans in the story are referred to as "Indians." However, I want to point out that during the 1930s (when the book was written) and during the early to mid 19th century (when the story is set) it was still politically correct to use the term "Indians" when referring to Native Americans, so this objection should be overlooked. Likewise, the racial tension that is displayed between some of the settlers and some of the Native Americans is realistic to the time and place that the story is set and key to the story and should likewise be disregarded.

In Summary:
I really enjoyed One Stayed At Welcome. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate it a 4. The story is interesting, the plot keeps moving, the writing is excellent. I probably would rate it higher, but for my own preferences. As I mentioned above, I am not a huge fan of Westerns, but I still would consider buying a copy if they were available. Unfortunately because the book is out of print it is very hard to find and very expensive. (Used copies that I found online ran upwards to $150.) Thankfully I was able to locate my copy through ILL, so if you're interested in reading One Stayed At Welcome I would suggest you start with your library and library's ILL system.

Related Reads:
Readers who grew up reading and loving the Little House on the Prairie books or who are fans of old Western movies are likely to find themselves a delightful read in One Stayed At Welcome.

1 comment:

hopeinbrazil said...

I love learning about books I've never heard about before read from people whose tastes I respect. Thanks for alerting us to this title.