Per Hansa struggles to make a life for his immigrant family in Dakota Territory with his depressed and doubtful wife Beret. Per and Beret Hansa arrive in the Dakota Territory of America in 1873, optimistic immigrants from Norway. Their journey by wagon was fraught with difficulties, but everyone arrives intact. The families set up in individual plots along a creek and build sod huts for themselves. Per is particularly adept, thriving on the challenge of providing for his family. He dreams of the wealth they will accrue as early settlers. His wife Beret is not at all optimistic about their chances and wishes she had never left Norway. The band of immigrants are fearful when they encounter Indians, but the natives prove to be non-hostile. Next their cattle goes missing, but Per is able to find them and return them. Per's biggest challenge comes when, after living for months in their settlement, he comes upon stakes left in the ground by earlier settlers to claim the land as their own. He removes the stakes to the horror of Beret. Weeks later, a group of Irish settlers return to their land, but they can't find their stakes anywhere and move on. Beret is aghast, but Per has saved all of the families' land. He goes about improving his land and house, bringing in white paint from a nearby town to beautify their home. Beret only gets more homesick and sinks into malaise.
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Beret gets pregnant but only becomes more hostile to Per. She openly regrets coming to America. Per fears that she will not survive childbirth, being a small woman of slight build, but she lives through it, giving birth to Peder Victorious Hansa. Their friend Hans baptizes the child. Supplies run low for the immigrants in the following months. Per trains furs with the Indians and makes dangerous trips to town far away for supplies. In an attempt to assimilate, some of the immigrants take on American names, but Beret is offended by the very idea. Per's first crop flourishes and he has great hope for the future. A sudden plague of locusts descends on the community's crops. Somehow, Per's crops are untouched, but the noisy cloud of locusts drives Beret into hiding in a trunk. She emerges mentally unhinged.
In the following years, Per and Beret grow more distant from one another. A traveling minister takes up residence in their growing community and Beret becomes fanatically religious under his influence. In 1881, their friend Hans becomes deathly ill. Beret fears for him and begs Per to go get the minister during a harsh storm so that he can be with the dying man. Per finally agrees but is caught up in a terrible snowstorm on his way and dies.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love survival stories like this. I was really happy to come across this book. I don't believe I could survive in this situation, but I like reading about people who can.
Best scene in story:
I liked when Per was all amped up and building houses and planting crops at the beginning. He had amazing resolve and ability.
Opinion about the main character:
I have no complaints about Per, I just wish he had married someone else. Beret is an ever-present impediment.