TRIALS OF THE EARTH : THE TRUE STORY OF A PIONEER WOMAN
by Mary Mann Hamilton
When Mary Mann was seventeen her father moved his family from Missouri into the "wild country of Arkansas." Within ten days he died of pneumonia, so the two oldest brothers, out of six children, got a job at the sawmill. As their house was the only one livable, they took in boarders. Mary did all of the cooking. It was here that she met Frank Hamilton, an Englishman twelve years older than her who had secrets about his past which he did not share with her. He definitely had an eye for her even though she didn't feel the same about him. But, at the age of eighteen she married him and they took off for the Mississippi Delta. Frank ran logging camps and Mary helped him by cooking for upwards of one hundred men. She would go to bed at 1:00 a.m. and get up at 4:00 a.m. and start preparing breakfast. (She baked 115 loaves of bread every day and thirty pies for dinner.) Besides the preparation of the food, Mary sewed clothes, skinned deer, fought off bears and snakes, gave birth to children, (four of whom died), survived floods, and helped and supported Frank in as many ways as she could. Through hard work, endurance, and persistence, Mary somehow stayed positive and soldiered on.
Near the end of her life, a friend of hers encouraged Mary to write down an account of her life (this was in 1933). It was submitted to the publisher Little, Brown for a writers' competition, but didn't win. Eighty-three years later with the help of Mary's descendants and the publishing company finally realizing that they had made a mistake, Trials of the Earth has been brought to fruition.
Mary Hamilton is a wonderful storyteller and yet it's all true. She definitely keeps you riveted to the page. Mary's writing is so raw, honest, expressive, and emotional that you feel as if you are right there with her experiencing everything she went through. Life back then was really tough with none of the luxuries that are afforded today. One really had to keep their wits about them. So, the next time you feel as if you are having a really bad day, just read this book and it will put things in perspective.
Very highly recommended.