Doubleday, Page, & Co., 1924
So Big is the story of Selina Peake DeJong, a city girl who, after being orphaned, moves to the country south of Chicago to be a school teacher. Selina has a high sense of adventure and beauty in the world, and the running joke among the farmers for a good part of the books is how Selina pronounced, upon seeing their produce in the fields, the beauty of their cabbages. Selina teaches until she meets and marries Pervus DeJong and gives birth to their son, Dirk. The title of the book comes from a game that Selina and Dirk played when he was a baby where she would say, "How big is baby?" and he would reply "Soooooooooo Big!" That became his pet name - used only by his mother. Selina becomes fascinated with the process of farming and progress in farming, and, when Pervus dies several years into their marriage, she takes pulls herself up by her bootstraps and takes control of the farm herself. Along the way Selina determines that Dirk will not be stuck on the farm like the other sons of farmers. She pushes him to seek knowledge and beauty. She wants him to know things, but she also wants him to appreciate the beauty in the world. The story continues with Dirk getting an education, moving to the city, and becoming wildly successful, all the while forgetting his mother's encouragement to appreciate the beauty in life.
I loved this book and read through it so quickly. I enjoyed the idea of a woman being stranded on a farm, forced to make her own way, and not sitting around feeling sorry for herself but making success and never losing her sense of adventure and beauty in the world. She is industrious, innovative, and wise. The story is also an interesting study in the way we raise children. How does one impart the ideas that one cherishes and loves into one's children without pushing them away from those exact things? In this Selina seems to fail, but the reader is left wondering if Dirk might have possibly caught on.
Again, we find that the acclaimed writers of fiction in the 1920s seem to all have a fascination with the development of the Midwest in common. It seems like it might become monotonous, but it hasn't yet for me.