I have always been told that if I read _Where the Red Fern Grows_ I would cry at the end. Therefore, I was never motivated to read it. But it is on the Ambleside Online booklist for Year 6, so that finally compelled me to take it in hand, and I finished the book a few nights ago.
I would describe it as a novel about love. It is a book that defines and encourages connection with others because of love and not because of necessity, convenience or selfish fulfillment. There are beautiful examples of sacrifice, hard work and patience, all for the sake of others, out of love, with no demand of reciprocity. It is not a book of today's attitudes and self-centered lifestyles.
The best part is that love is reciprocated, that the characters who give with no thought of receiving actually receive in great abundance-- "a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over."
The relationships the characters have with each other are striking because love is shown despite lack of understanding. This is especially true in Billy's relationships with his mother and sisters. His mother does not understand him, and expresses her confusion and dismay-- but oh, she loves him very much, and shows it. He is the same toward her-- he feels confined by her concern for him, but he loves and honors her despite it. He thinks not much can be expected of girls, yet he still has time for his sisters, as they do for him. Nowadays we are conditioned to expect understanding before we believe someone truly loves us, but understanding is not a prerequisite for love, nor is it a prerequisite for continuing to love, or for continuing to express that love.
Billy's gently deprecating humor and subtle bragging lent an air of authenticity to the book. I have known Oklahoma boys like him. The unfolding of his simple faith in God was inspiring. His prayers, though few, were an important aspect of the story. He went from being an energetic, needy yet diligent boy to a well-spoken, confident and brave young man.
Mr. Honey is pleased to know I have read a hunting book. The hunting sections were enlightening to me, as I have never felt the desire or need to hunt. (Kroger is just around the corner, and perhaps being a woman has something to do with it as well.) Billy had a hunger for hunting, and as the story progressed I saw him in my mind's eye, becoming stronger, quieter and more manly with each new coon hide he brought in. He made a good deal of money with those hides, and turned all of it over to his father, who was struggling to provide for his family in the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma.
I thought the ending was beautiful, although so sad, because of the depth of love the dogs had for each other and for Billy. And in the final outcome of the story, Billy's family did exhibit a deep, heart-felt understanding. The whole book inspired me to love my family more-- to be more faithful in the little things, and not so quick to condemn misunderstandings as a lack of love.