Monday, June 28, 2010

Dakota: A Spritual Geography

By Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris writes about living in the small town of Lemmon in north central South Dakota. The house she lived in was built by her grandparents and she used to spend summers there as a child but she grew up in Hawaii and lived on the East Coast before moving to Lemmon where her family's roots in the community go back generations.
Written during the farm crisis of the 1980s when crop prices were depressed, interest rates increasing, land values falling and many farms failing, Norris observed how the local community reacted. So she writes of small town life in changing times. She also writes about her feelings about life in a monastery and about how the challenges of living in and the landscape of the wide open spaces of the grasslands of the Dakotas helped her to understand and develop her own spirituality.

This was a pretty good book. I especially enjoyed her reflections on the insularity of small town people and of how it makes life harder for new members trying to fit in to a community that will never stop thinking of them as outsiders. I also enjoyed her descriptions of life on the prairie and of the struggles to make a living in a less than hospitable environment. I didn't enjoy as much her raptures over monastery life. Overall, I found the book interesting and surprisingly inspiring, and I am not a person who is easily inspired.

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