From the book:
This is the story of two midwestern families and the starnge way in which their paths crossed. It begins in Illinois in the year 1866, and end in Nebraska in the present one , severed from all that went before and all that will continue beyond a thing of incompleteness.
Aldrich blends together a portrait of the harshness of prairie pioneer life and that of an unconventional love story. Amalia Holmsdorfer, a sweet young girl of seventeen, finds herself attracted to twenty-one year Matthias Meier, the young clerk who sold her stern German father the soap-making kettle. Matthias also finds himself attracted to Amalia and begins secretly courting her–even though she has been pledged in marriage to a man of her father’s choosing. Amalia and Matthias plan to run away together, yet their plans meet up with the fury of flooded roads and even though Matthias attempts to meet her in Nebraska before she marries, he again meets up with one of nature’s blockades. Matthias and Amalia miss each other by mere hours and she marries the wrong man.
So goes the begins a love story that will span three and four generations. Aldrich, writing in the style prevalent of her time, reveals the story in an omniscient narrator fashion. It’s as if we are sitting in a cozy living room and listening to a tale of long ago. While the “tell” style of yesteryear may not got over well with the current “show” method of today, I have to admit I became so involved in the plot that by the last chapter I clutched the book and actually cried. And I am not a crier when it comes to literature. Movies, on occasion can induce some sniffling, but rarely can a book get me to sob.
The story is mainly about Amalia; her hopes and dreams of romance are forever changed when she is forced to leave with the rest of her family and the other members of her German community to build a new settlement in Nebraska. Though she appears complacent on the outside, she keeps her inner thoughts and desires to herself. Aldrich captures this wonderfully:
pp. 9 & 10
But thoughts are acrobats, agile and quite often untrustworthy. So now, with impish disregard of the command, they hopped about quite easily. They asked Amalia innocently why the nice young man wanted to know where she lived. They suggested with subtle art the possibility that he would try to find out. And then when the gruff person at her side questioned their activities they urged her quickly to answer, “Nein.”
My interest in pioneer started long ago with the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. There is a fascination in reading about how people created homes and towns out of the rough lands of prairie and wilderness, and through all this tremendous effort they had their own personal stories. For the last five years I have labored on a novel about a family who follows the Oregon trail to turn off and make their claim in Idaho. Historical novels require plenty of research to make the time period, setting, and characters come alive. Aldrich’s Spring Came on Forever reminded me how moving pioneer stories can be. I am also encouraged to someday write something that induces tears.