Ehrlich renders an admiring portrait of Cather, focusing on the relationship between her writing and the places she lived and visited.
Willa and family followed her grandparents from Virginia to Nebraska in 1883. Willa was lonely, but she had a pony and freedom to roam. When her father traded farming for real estate, the family moved to Red Cloud. She read keenly, enjoying adult friends, who "were more interesting than children and...talked to Willa in a serious and cultured way." During her freshman year at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, an essay’s publication changed Willa's path from doctor to writer. Cather worked at magazines in Pittsburgh and New York. The writer Sarah Orne Jewett urged her to focus on her own writing. Journeys to Europe, the American Southwest, back to Nebraska and Virginia—all resonated in her accomplished fiction. Ehrlich writes with little inflection, sometimes adopting Cather's viewpoint. The Civil War and slavery are briefly treated. (Cather's maternal grandparents were slaveholders.) Native Americans receive only incidental mentions: that Red Cloud is named for the Oglala Lakota chief and that, as children, Willa and her brothers had "imagined themselves in Indian country in the Southwest desert. What adventures they would have!" Minor's watercolor-and-gouache pictures depict bucolic prairie scenes and town and city life; meadowlarks appear frequently.
A simplistic treatment for an audience likely unfamiliar with its subject. (timeline, thumbnail biographies of American women writers of Cather's time, bibliography) (Biography. 7-10)