Clarion Review – Lila – Four Stars (out of Five)
The stoicism of pioneers on the Great Plains is brought vividly to life through one young woman’s struggles.
More than one hundred thousand Germans immigrated to the United States from Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. They brought with them traditional roles, recipes, and religions, along with grit and determination, as they settled across the Great Plains and prairie lands.
In Lila Mae Schick highlights one young woman’s journey to reconcile the often harsh old-world values with those of the vibrant, new generation coming of age in the 1920s.struggles.
Lila is responsible, dutiful, and hardworking. She once dreamed of becoming a teacher, but since her mother’s death, she has taken care of her younger brothers and sisters and helped her father on the farm, finding solace in baking for her family and neighbors. When her emotionally distant father becomes abusive at the urging of his new wife, Lila escapes with the help of Fischer, a charismatic troublemaker.
Set amid close-knit Russian-German communities in North Dakota and Montana, Lila’s cultural background plays a key role in shaping her life, personality, and decisions. The narrative opens on Lila’s father’s dairy farm in simple present tense and remains there throughout the opening chapters . . . from this obscure but widespread group of immigrants, from the Evangelisch-Lutherische Church Sunday school and meetings to Lila’s famous recipe for pflaumenkuchen. The men and women in Lila both embrace and struggle with their heritage of stoicism and forbearance, which has been passed down generation after generation.
This attitude is reflected in the parceling out of information as the narrative unfolds. Emotions and tempers build, only to be abandoned momentarily or all together for the start of a new direction or chapter, leaving specific details and outcomes up to the imagination. In one instance, the ladies in Lila’s social circle embrace their lot: “None of the diffident women meeting together and looking for shelter in the presence of other disquieted souls discuss their personal misfortunes. There is a tacit understanding that each must suffer her personal sorrows and humiliation.”
Lila is a true character study of particular interest to descendants of German, Russian, or any Eastern European immigrant families. Young adults will sympathize and relate to Lila’s early struggles, while adults will appreciate the subtleties and quiet successes as she matures and comes into her own.
Pallas Gates McCorquodale
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AMAZON and other readers comments-
“A compelling and complex story which focuses on the titular heroine, Lila, and her life in the Dakotas and Montana. ..many lovely descriptions and these are crafted with skill. …communicates the harshness of the life of German Russian immigrants to the Plains. .. shows how following one’s internal compass can provide a path of empowerment. Relationships described are depicted carefully and with detail. Offers subtle messages and lessons about human relationships and the importance of nurturing and nourishment for the human spirit.”
“Engaging and absorbing. Unfold(s) with clarity and complexity…develops characters with strong but subtle personalities.Quirks and minor points of their personalities are intriguing and compelling. The writing is inflected with sensitivity and the use of simile, imagery, and metaphor delightful.”
“Lila is one of the most “fleshed-out” characters I have encountered. I truly cared for her and hoped that life would work out for her. Her struggles, internal and external, are worthy of our attention. The plot is enthralling. The character of Lila is exquisitely portrayed, as are all of the main characters. She captures the complexities and changes of real people.”
“This was an enjoyable and interesting story. I found the characters likable and felt sympathetic to their struggles. The historical details that were included were not overwhelming but seemed apropos to the development of the story. I would read the next book to find out what happens with Will and Lila, and with Minna. “