Jews in the old west

The Little Bride by Anna Solomon is a poignant novel of a young Jewish bride in the old American west. Far from a love story, this is about survival.

Minna is an orphaned teenager who comes to the barren Dakota plains as the “mail-order” bride of widower she has never met, a man more than twice her age. In Odessa in the old country, Minna suffered the humiliation of servitude and the threat of rape or death in the pogroms against the Jews.
 
As Minna sets up housekeeping with Max and his two teenage sons, she finds her new husband is depressed, devoutly religious, and penniless, and she is ill-prepared for an isolated life with three men in small sod house.
 
But the “little bride” adapts to her new life in America, teaching herself English,  enduring the harsh Dakota landscape and a loveless marriage. Her dream of better life brought her to America to marry a stranger, and a long harsh winter fuels her desires for a good life and love.
 
This is far from a typical western. Although fictional, it is inspired by the Am Olam movement. Wealthy Jews subsidized their religious brethren to come to the new world and become self-sufficient landowners (the name Am Olam means "eternal people"). The social experiment was not entirely successful; the climate was forbidding, and few of the travellers were experienced farmers.
 
Solomon paints a sober portrait of a real time in Europe and the west through Minna’s fascinating story.
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