“[A] tale of the slow battle and eventual victory over the Trees and that relentless forest which even today marches in and takes over an Ohio field that has been left untilled for a year or two. The story is told with a feeling of poetry and the picturesque turn of language which characterized the speech of the frontier and can still be heard in the Ohio country districts.”
Conrad Richter's trilogy of novels The Trees (1940), The Fields (1946), and The Town, (1950) traces the transformation of Ohio from wilderness to farmland to the site of modern industrial civilization, all in the lifetime of one character. The trilogy earned Richter immediate acclaim as a historical novelist. The Town won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1951, and The Trees was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection soon after it was published. Richter also received the 1947 Ohioana Library Medal for the first two volumes of the trilogy.
The Fields continues the saga of Sayward Luckett Wheeler, who marries the educated New Englander, Portius, and bears him eight children. In the second novel of his Awakening Land trilogy, Richter creates, in the character of Sayward, a woman who is honest and compelling, and her story is one readers will cherish and will want to read again and again.
Conrad Richter was born in Pennsylvania. His family on his mother’s side was identified with the early American scene, and from boyhood on he was saturated with tales and the color of Eastern pioneer days. In 1928 he and his family moved to New Mexico, where his heart and mind were soon captured by the Southwest. The Sea of Grass and The Trees were awarded the gold medal of the Societies of Libraries of New York University in 1942.
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Cora Sandel, born Sara Fabricus in 1880, did not publish her first novel until 1926. Alberta and Jacob, first novel of the trilogy, is the story of an adolescent girl’s rebellion against the self–conscious gentility of her family in the far north of Norway during the last years of the nineteenth century. Imaginative and intelligent, Alberta Selmer longs for the knowledge and self fulfillment that her provincial surroundings cannot give her.
In the final novel of Richter’s Awakening Land trilogy, Sayward Wheeler completes her mission and lives to see the transition of her family and her friends, American pioneers, from the ways of wilderness to the ways of civilization. The Town, for which Richter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951, is a much bigger book in every way than its predecessors; it is itself a rich contribution to literature and with the other novels comprises a great American epic.
Toward the close of the eighteenth century, the land west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River was an unbroken sea of trees. Beneath them the forest trails were dark, silent, and lonely, brightened only by a few lost beams of sunlight. Here, in the first novel of Conrad Richter's Awakening Land trilogy, the Lucketts, a wild, woods-faring family, lived their roaming life, pushing ever westward as the frontier advanced and as new settlements threatened their isolation.