Since her childhood, Abbie Deal always dreamt of becoming a refined lady of the arts. A proposal from Dr. Matthews son, Ed, would provide her with the opportunity. As a young doctor himself, Ed could afford voice and painting lessons as well as stylish clothes. Deep down, however, Abbie, knows that she really loves quiet, loyal Will Deal. When Will returns from fighting in the Civil War, Abbie knows she must follow her heart. Before she has time to catch her breath, Abbie is married with one child and another on the way, riding in a covered wagon across the prairie to Nebraska. Only her love for Will can lighten the pain of leaving family and friends behind.
Will and Abbie struggle to work the land that he is confident will yield a living. Other homesteaders abandon their farms when the going gets tough, but the Deals and their closest neighbors, the Lutz and Reinmueller Families, stick it out. Although Will promises that Abbie will someday have music lessons and a trip home to Iowa, whenever they have a little extra, one of their five children always seems to need something. In spite of Will’s objections, Abbie cheerfully sacrifices even necessities to see their dreams come to fruition. What are her former ambitions compared to the noble calling of motherhood?
Bess Streeter Aldrich’s classic pioneer story recounts the life of a courageous woman who faces everyday challenges with fortitude. Abbie’s faith in her husband’s vision for the future of Nebraska and her devotion to her children give her the strength to overcome temptations to self-pity and regret for lost dreams. Her feminine attention to detail helps her to make life joyful for her family, even when she has little means with which to do it. Abbie Deal gives without counting the cost, demonstrating that true fulfillment is only found in a life of service.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.