‘Hattie Big Sky’ expands horizons

Author of novel: Kirby Larson

Rating: 5/5 stars

My bounce-around life had taught me that dreams were dangerous things—they look solid in your mind, but you just try to reach for them. It’s like gathering clouds.

The year is 1917, and 16 year old orphan Hattie Inez Brooks has just moved away from her aunt and uncle. After a lifetime of being shuttled from relative to relative, Hattie is eager to take a claim from the will of her deceased uncle to work his land in Montana.  

Hattie, along with her faithful cat Mr. Whiskers, soon realize that settling the claim will not be as easy as expected. In order to keep the land, Hattie must fence, tend, cultivate and maintain 320 acres of land within 10 months. As winter strikes Montana, Hattie must resist the persistent offers of Traft Martin, a man set on buying her land.

Hattie quickly forms strong bonds with her neighbors, such as Leafie Purvis and Karl and Perilee Mueller’s family as they band together to survive the harsh winter. One night, Hattie rescues the Mueller children when they get caught in a snowstorm. As repayment, Karl fences part of Hattie’s land. Hattie learns how to care for her land and livestock and begins to work towards fulfilling the claim requirements. To earn extra money, she writes articles on homesteading for The Arlington News.

Anti-German sentiments are on the rise as American troops fight overseas. ‘Patriot groups’, such as the Dawson County Council of Defense, try to terrorize German families like the Muellers. They scare the family cow, spit at Karl and disrespect his family.
Bright, hardworking and free spirited, Hattie makes the best of her situation. Hattie supports the peaceful German population of America despite threats to herself and her land. She voices her frequent concerns in her letters to her close friend Charlie, who is overseas fighting in the war, and her articles in The Arlington News, which become her voice. Hattie’s most admirable quality would be that she continues to move forward to prove that he is worthy of her uncle’s claim. Her optimistic attitude on even the bleakest of situations make her an enjoyable character as you follow her to see if she lives up to her uncle’s claim.