Did you know that not all “Okies” migrated during the Great Depression? Some stayed and endured their hardships. These were tough, determined survivors, as described by author Samuel Hall in his novel, Daughter of the Cimarron, based on the real life experiences of the author’s mother.
Claire is struggling with a difficult marriage which ends shortly into the story. She is employed in a crew of traveling door-to-door sellers in the Midwest. A romance develops between Claire and her supervisor, Elmer.
After stops and starts, and challenges, not the least of which was the onset of the Depression, Claire and Elmer marry. Making a living during such challenging times isn’t easy, and they eventually leave sales for other ventures.
Adding to the challenges for Claire are her husband’s parents, who seem to have a habit of inviting themselves as live-in “guests” any time Claire and Elmer’s circumstances improve–or theirs fail.
Throughout her circumstances, Claire struggles with doubts and faith in God as the author draws us into a vivid landscape of the Midwest. Much of the story takes place in Ness County, Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. In the early chapters, we experience the life of door-to-door sales, not from the point of view of the person answering the door, as we are accustomed, but from the perspective of the person knocking on the door.
As Claire and her family move on to other means of support more conducive to raising a family, the challenges of the Great Depression threaten to undermine their happiness.
Most striking was the description of the four main characters’ surviving on mashed and cooked grain “acquired” from their landlord’s barn. In spite of their desperate and exhausting circumstances, we see the characters–Claire especially–survive with dignity and grace.
This is not literary fiction, like a Steinbeck novel. And, although it is published by a Christian publisher, Daughter of the Cimarron is not overtly a Christian novel, but a work of realistic historical fiction written from a Christian world view. This novel lacks the rich symbolism and motifs of a novel like The Grapes of Wrath. The characters also are less vividly defined. Where the author of Daughter of the Cimarron has succeeded is in bringing the reader into the grit and perseverance of main character by giving us a real person’s real history.
Another interesting feature of the novel is, it is the author’s own personal back story. By showing us the world, the life and the circumstances he was born out of, Samuel Hall has shown us that perseverance is a story, sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating and often entertaining.