So Big by Edna Ferber
AR Reading Level: 5.8
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Award: Pulitzer Prize (1925)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have wanted to read this book for years. Inexplicably, I was turned off by the title. I never would have guessed that So Big is actually a person! (After reading the book, I still think it's a silly title.)
Selina Peake's father, Simeon, was a gambling man. She and her father traveled from place to place-- sometimes flush with cash, sometimes not. Eventually they settled in Chicago and Simeon made sure Selina went to the best school money could buy. When Simeon dies unexpectedly, Selina decides to take a teaching position in High Prairie, a Dutch farming community just outside the city. She approaches what was to be a short-term position with a sense of adventure. But when Selina marries a poor farmer, High Prairie becomes her everything.
"So Big" is Selina's son, whose name is actually Dirk. Selina works herself to the bone to make sure Dirk can get a good education and get out of High Prairie. He does so, but then he becomes a person that Selina doesn't really like. He eschews the beauty and grace in life that Selina thought she had taught him to see, opting for security among the monied society of Chicago.
This is a beautifully written book. It's one of those books that really gets right into the guts of humanity and what makes people tick. It's about the meaning of success and how our choices can either backfire or how they can spur us on into greatness. The book moved a tad slow for me and it ended in a really odd spot. I would really have liked Ferber to have written a post-Depression update on these characters. But it's a lovely novel, definitely deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.
Also reviewed by: Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ The Book Nest
26 minutes ago