The Meadowlark is a dual timeline story set in Idaho.
The story begins in 1885 with Cassie’s family of homesteaders heading to Willow Creek —they intend to become farmers. The biggest challenge in the area is the water supply and much of the early parts of the story focus on the canal systems and irrigation channels that the first pioneers dug to water their crops.
In the modern-day timeline we are introduced to Emma who has a couple of mysteries to solve which led her to Willow Creek. Sadly Emma was my least favourite character; who she was and what she did in her life never felt real, so I was keen to return to the historical chapters that followed Cassie’s lifetime up until 1936, filled as they were with progress in the town of Willow Creek, including many of the technological improvements of the era and how they became part of everyday life.
This was an ambitious project for a debut novel. The early pioneers and the canal irrigation systems were well researched and were quite fascinating to read about, but it needed weaving into the story more artfully. I can see the amount of research and ideas that make up this story, but some areas need filtering. The story became swamped at times with detail that added little to the story lines. More time spent on character building and less on practical detail would have made the story far more compelling.
The book includes some maps and photos which added to the historical interest. My overall feeling about this book is that there is a good piece of history in there, but it needs the help of an experienced editor to lift the main characters so that they are equally as interesting as the irrigation project.
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In 1885, southeastern Idaho was the last part of the country to open for homesteading. Young Cassie Rapp arrives with her family to farm a country overrun by sagebrush and lacking water. With others they meet, they harness the mighty Snake River and turn 100,000 acres of barren earth into the rich farm community it is today.
Meanwhile, modern-day character Emma Rose, a notable speaker and business consultant, is trying to make sense of her recently deceased father’s request to be buried in a small Idaho town. Her journey of discovery begins from there.
The Meadowlark is a sweeping saga of generations of powerful women set against the building of the American West and a modern discovery of deep family roots. Rich in historical detail and human emotion, this is the story of the uphill struggles endured by the people settling this country and the pride, perseverance, and faith it takes to succeed then or now.
The Meadowlark offers the debut of a strong new writer. B.C. Walker combines a keen observer’s eye and the particularity of place to lay out a lush, large-scale, multi-generational story.