Brothers Jan and Karl Thoreson and their families have arrived in New York. Immigrants from Norway, they are headed to the Nebraska Territory and their intended claim of 160 acres each as part of the U.S. land-grant program. It is 1866; the American Civil War is over and the brothers, with no prospects in their home country to become farmers, are looking to create a new life. They are more fortunate than most immigrants: they come with solid middle-class resources and they have done their homework on what to expect, both when they land and when they travel and arrive in Nebraska.
But no amount of research can prepare them for the joy of owning their own land and for the hardship and heartbreak that will come from life in a new world – the storms, the locusts, the backbreaking work of busting sod, disease, and even death. They and their families will experience it all, their lives held together by their deep faith in God.
Wild Heart on the Prairie by Vikki Kestell tells the story of the Thoreson families as they carve out a new life on the former prairies of Nebraska. It also tells the story of what immigrants experienced as they arrived and traveled to their final destinations; how small-town life (and neighbors) helped sustain existence; how people built their farms, communities, and churches; and how they endured great personal tragedies. First published in 2014, it is a historical novel that falls in the “faith-filled, inspirational” genre. It is such a good read that I had difficulty putting it down, so I didn’t; I read it straight through in far less than a day.
Wild Heart on the Prairie is the second of eight books in “A Prairie Heritage” series. Before beginning her writing career, Kestell worked in government, academia, and corporate arenas, holding a Ph.D. degree in Organizational Learning and Instruction. She has also written four books in the “Nanostealth” series, three in “Girls from the Mountain” series, and several in the “Laynie Portland Spy” series, as well as a Bible study entitled “Growing Up in God.”
To learn in a fictional way about how immigrants settled the American Midwest, and how they survived all that life (and nature) threw at them, read Wild Heart on the Prairie. It is a moving book that often evokes tears while it tells a beautiful story.