The late nineteenth century was a time of chaos in northern Europe with wars nearly as common as weeds. August Mallast and his young bride, Rosina, were often parted as he was called off to fight in one war or another. As their family grew, August was able to contract as a tenant farmer in the small town of Werdum. With five children already in 1871, August was able to support his family well on the farm. The family continued to grow to a total of seven children and rumblings of war came again. August and Rosina realized they might lose their growing boys to future wars. This was the impetus to the family to consider migrating to America. August, a very deliberate man, did a great deal of research about the move and even sent his oldest two sons ahead to check out the lay of the land. Putting their life savings at risk, the family made the move, ending up in Michigan where they were able to lease a farm. There they put down roots and as the children become adults and built their own families, those roots spread and the family became part of the fabric of the growing nation.
Author Bob Provost has accessed a great many historical documents and has clearly done his homework to bring about this novel that weaves historical fact with family lore and invented dialogue and thoughts. It is a compelling story many Americans can easily relate to. The writing is good and the characters seem quite real and well-rounded. While the book could use a more careful round of developmental editing, and the writer could trust his readers more and not repeat information so often, the story is an interesting one with plenty of fine details of the historical settings involved and characters readers will really care about. Any readers interested in the immigrant experience from earlier times will enjoy this fine addition to the historical fiction genre.
June 1st 2012