Each maintains a love of the open prairie, but while Alexandra Bergson in O Pioneers! is able to hold her own and thrive on the land, Blunt is hemmed in and frustrated at each turn, a ranch wife-in-training through girlhood and finally a ranch wife with children of her own.
Physically strong and fearless as any man, she uses hard labor as a way to cope with a life-long belief in the fundamental unfairness of being denied opportunities simply because of her gender. In her thirties, she finally leaves the ranch and starts a new life in Missoula as a divorced mother, university student, and writer.
However, her book is not about the break-up of her marriage or her final decision to leave behind the life she'd been living. It is a carefully remembered recounting of her childhood, youth, and early years as a rancher's wife.
|Montana range land, photo by R Scheer © 2011|
It's an often turbulent story, where every passage from one stage of life to the next is marked by resistance, dismay, and a sense of deep loss. The people in the circle of her family are captured in fiercely observed detail – especially her mother and father, her sister Gail, her husband John, and John's parents.
The physical world they inhabit is vividly rendered – the character of the arid, prairie land, the seasonal changes, the extremes of weather, the isolation, and the difficulty of making a living out here against the odds. She also captures the constraints of the social world they inhabit, and she articulates clearly the limited possibilities for personal growth and independence where gender roles and social norms are rigidly observed.