Their Fathers’ God by O.E. Rølvaag, Trygve M. Ager (Translator)

Translated by Trygve M Ager. Biro inscription inside cover: ‘Christmas 1991, from Bev’

Description: Susie Doheny, an Irish Catholic, and Peder Holm, a Norwegian Lutheran, fall in love and marry in South Dakota in the 1890s. Soon their marriage is tested by drought, depression, and family bickering. Susie believes they are being tested by their fathers’ God.Peder blames Susie for the timidity of her beliefs; Susie fears Peder’s pride and skepticism. When political antagonism grows between the Norwegian and Irish immigrant communities, it threatens to split their marriage.

Against a backdrop of hard times, crisscrossed by Populists, antimonopolists, and schemers, Rölvaag brings the struggle of immigrants into the twentieth century. In Giants in the Earth the Holm family strained to wrest a homestead from the land. In Peder Victorious the American-born children searched for a new national identity, often defying the traditions their parents fought to uphold. In Their Fathers’ God, Rölvaag’s most soul-searching novel, the first-generation americans enter a world of ruthless competition in the midst of scarcity.

Opening: 1: “A Cloud Like A Man’s Hand”: No hope for rain tonight either. Oh, no, it took pains to stay away, wherever it was.

Only now I notice – this is the final book in a trilogy. Nevermind, I shall get a good enough sample of Rølvaag’s writing to see if he is worth looking into further.

  Fifty miles from water
One hundred miles from wood
To hell with South Dakota
We're leaving you for good

Mainly, I wanted to see how this Norwegian experience compares to The Emigrants, four books on the Swedish migration to the New World.

Relentless side taking, factions and cliques in first generation hardscrabble lives. Epic sweeping family saga that is nicely written.

It was amusing to read this whilst also encountering Wexford’s The Babes in the Wood, how I would have loved to tip some of the floods from latter into former!

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