Hulda Klager, of German descent as is my husband, shows a stubborn streak which is all too real to me. Her determination and passion for her flowers, especially the propagation of lilacs, jumps from the page. One can almost smell the heady scent of their blossoms.
Spurred on by her father’s encouragement, Hulda counters the standard of the day for women and dabbles in things scientific. Yet, she never loses sight of her faith in God, and in a conversation with her older sister, Bertha, she speaks of “living things” in a touching and spiritual manner:
“Living things offer solace, Bertha. I can’t remove the poverty of the Smith children, though I try, I do. Frank and I support the deacon’s fund. But when I brought Mrs. Smith fresh-picked vegetables last summer and included a bouquet of my lilacs, it was the flowers she went to first. She inhaled their scent, and for a moment as she buried her face in them, I think she forgot about the misery of her drinking husband and the rags on her children. She needed a moment to gain strength from those petals to face her life as it is. A moment of joy is no small thing to give another.” (p. 79)
Faced with many difficulties in her own life and questions raised about her propagation and experiments, Hulda remains strong throughout. She never loses sight of God’s presence in her day-to-day living and reminds us all in her story that good times will follow the difficult if we stay strong in Him.
One last quote from the book which resonated with me as indicative of Hulda Klager’s philosophy of life:
“[L]ife is worthwhile when it holds some beauty. It needn’t be flowers. It can be helping other people–that’s beautiful.” (p. 356)
A long-time fan of Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing, Where the Lilacs Still Bloom did not disappoint. As always, Kirkpatrick’s references to history are correct and her plot and character development leaves the reader with a wish to keep turning the pages. Of all her books written about real women living in the history of our country, this ranks among my favorites.
* * *