A Whistling Season

When my book club chose this book last August, for me to lead in April, I thought, “Great, here comes Willa Cather’s My Antonia Part 2.” (I loathed My Antonia; I’d rather watch paint dry than read that book, although the last time I picked it up I was fourteen.)

But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This is a fantastic book.

This is a fabulous book.

This is the best book I’ve read about education for as far back as I can remember, and it’s certainly in my list of top books read for the year so far.

To be fair, it isn’t solely about education. Sure, there’s the school-house with its paint peeling from the sun of Montana. Sure, there’s a teacher in the form of Morrie, who accompanied his sister, Rose, to Marias Coulee in 1910. She’d placed an ad: Can’t Cook, But Doesn’t Bite in the paper for a housekeeping position, but unlike A Reliable Wife, turned out to be the perfect answer for this family who’d lost their mother a year before.

She whistled while she scrubbed. She made the house a home. And, she had a brother who brought education to life. He was exactly the kind of teacher I long to be: unconventional, caring, finding the unique and sensational in every student and every subject.

“Morrie thought up a doozy this time,” I confided to Rose insofar as I could. “I wish I could tell you, but it’s a —-“

“Ah, but I know all about it,” she whispered back, delicately fingering her cocoa cup. I kept forgetting how much time she and Morrie naturally spent together, sister and brother, out of our sight. “That man. You just never know what he will pull next, do you.” Her little conspiratorial smile seemed to approve of that, this time.” (p. 265)

I cannot do this book justice with my weak words. You must read it for yourself even if you are not a teacher. Or, a housekeeper. Or, familiar with rural Montana life from 100 years before. It makes no difference for the way this book will impact your life.