Pollyanna’s Western Adventure

//by Harriet Lummis Smith//published 1929//


The next Glad book opens a few years after the close of Pollyanna’s Debt of Honor.  Leaving behind the security and modern conveniences of their Boston suburb, the Pendelton family heads to the wild west, where Jimmy has taken on the supervision of the building of a dam.  Many adventures ensue as the family meets their new neighbors and work through the romantic drama of their new governess, Dorothy.  Through it all, of course, lessons in contentment and thankfulness are learned, and everyone ends up better people than they were in the beginning.  (Guys, I actually love the simplicity of these books.)

The first thing that really struck me about Pollyanna’s Western Adventure is that it is set less than a hundred years ago, yet they move into a house without running water.  One of the huge events of the story is when they get a radio.  It’s just mind boggling to me how much has changed in the last hundred years.  We take so many of our everyday conveniences for granted!

One of the big parts of this story is that Pollyanna starts a lending library.  I love the way that everyday drudgery of the lives of these poor mountain people is lifted when their worlds are able to be expanded through reading.  It’s amazing to me how learning about the world beyond our own changes our perspective on our everyday life.  Smith really catches this throughout her story.

Dorothy’s tale is a bit melodramatic, as she is caught in a love triangle of her own making, and there is a completely bizarre scene in which she is kidnapped by a crazy old mountain woman, but overall this story is similar to the others – just wholesome, happy entertainment.

This is the last Pollyanna book by Smith.  I’ve just started reading Pollyanna in Hollywood, which is Elizabeth Borton’s first installment, so we’ll see how the transition goes.  I’m having a lot of trouble finding the last couple of books, so we may be reaching the end of this little series soon.  The Western Adventure is an easy 4/5, and another delightful addition to the series.

Pollyanna’s Debt of Honor

//by Harriet Lummis Smith//published 1927//


The fifth Glad Book picks up a few years after the conclusion of Pollyanna’s Jewels.  The Pendletons are still living in a Boston suburb, and although the children are all a little older, things seem to be more or less the same.  However, the neighborhood is intrigued when new neighbors move into the house across the street from Pollyanna and her family.  A father and daughter, the young woman is strangely shy, claiming to be to invalidish to have company, but seen walking briskly in and out of her house and heading off on drives in a way that doesn’t seem to be sickly at all.  Pollyanna soon manages to meet and befriend Lorraine, and is determined to help her overcome her troubles.

As those of you who have read my other Glad book reviews know, I am thoroughly enjoying this series.  The characters, while old-fashioned, are endearing.  Pollyanna has transformed from a bubbly, happy child to a kind, thoughtful adult.  Her determined optimism is a foundation of her character, but isn’t overdone or pushy.  At the same time, Pollyanna has firm morals and beliefs and is unafraid to stand up for them when the need arises.  She is no milk-and-water miss, as the saying goes.  While modern feminists would look down on her, I actually believe that Pollyanna is an excellent representative of true femininity – strong, independent, intelligent, and well-informed, while at the same time thoughtful, kind, intuitive, and gentle.  Pollyanna would never say that she was better than her husband, or that he was better than her – she completely understands that they are simply different, and that it is, in fact, this very difference that enables them to be such a wonderful match, as their strengths and weaknesses complement and bolster each other.

These are not stories full of high drama.  They don’t have a strong, driving plot that will keep you awake at nights.  However, there is a pleasant simplicity to the stories.  The dialogue is natural and engaging, and the characters face problems that somehow transcend the nearly hundred years since the book’s publication date, and become oddly applicable to modern life.

One thing that I love about Pollyanna is her fearlessness in defending what she believes to be right and true, even if it means standing up to people she loves and respects.  In this story, their old friend James Carew, now a famous author, writes a book that Pollyanna disagrees with.  James has followed what Pollyanna believes to be the deplorableness of  modern times by writing what his publishers tell him will sell – a story of loose morals, where those who do wrong are rewarded, and those who try to say otherwise are portrayed as narrow-minded and ridiculous.  An altercation comes to a head when James’s secretary, an impressionable young woman, nearly runs away with a married man.  Pollyanna confronts James:

“Pollyanna, you can’t be serious.  You can’t mean you hold James responsible because a crazy girl decided to follow the example of one of his characters” [James’s wife, Sadie, said].

“I  hold him responsible for making respectability seem tame and cowardly, and immorality romantic and beautiful.  Here’s a young girl who naturally respects James and his opinions.  Day after day she is saturated with ideas that are upsetting to anybody so inexperienced.  Aren’t the people in ‘Growing Pains’ [James’s book] who are shocked when Mrs. Rutledge leaves her husband for her lover, the meanest characters in the book, narrow and small and Pharisaical?”

She looked James in the eye and waited until he answered slowly, “Why, yes, I suppose they are.”

“All the nice people practically condone her conduct.  At least it doesn’t make any difference in their attitude towards her, does it?”

Pollyanna’s perspective is one that is probably a bit startling for the modern reader.  We’re now multiple generations into the attitude that says that people should do whatever they want, whatever makes them happy, and that they should be able to do so completely free of judgment.  But I think that Pollyanna has an important point.  We’ve somehow gotten to this place where if anyone dares to say they don’t believe something is “moral” or “right,” then that person is immediately labeled as “intolerant” and “narrow-minded” and “prejudiced.”  Pollyanna’s character may have strong views on the sacredness of marriage vows, but that doesn’t make her intolerant, narrow-minded, or prejudiced.  Instead, she is kind, generous, and giving.  She welcomes all sorts of people into her circle, reaching out to those in need.  But she doesn’t do it by patting them on the head and telling them that every decision they’ve ever made was the right one.  She does it by helping them to see that when one makes wrong, selfish decisions, one has hard consequences to face.  But if one faces them and tries to make things square, life has a way of straightening itself back out.

Another conversation in this story that really struck me was one wherein Pollyanna and speaking with Lorraine.  Lorraine was in a car accident and her face was severely scarred.  Hence, she doesn’t wish to be seen/speak with anyone, and it is slowly embittering and destroying her life.  Throughout the story, Pollyanna tries to help her to see that beauty is not the cornerstone of a woman’s worth.

“I’m going to tell you something surprising.  I’m really glad not to be a beauty ….  A woman who is loved for her beauty and nothing else, must be almost afraid to look in the mirror every morning, for when her beauty goes, everything goes with it.  But hundreds of thousands of women like me know we are loved for something independent of our looks as our bodies are independent of the clothes we wear.  I don’t mean to get wrinkled or lose my teeth any sooner than I must, but Jimmy wouldn’t stop loving me on that account any more than he’d stop loving me if I put on an unbecoming dress.”

These are not perfect books.  Sometimes I roll my eyes at a plot line, and sometimes there are too many little “funny” children’s anecdotes, but overall, these books are of a type similar to Louisa May Alcott.  They are strong, sturdy little books that know exactly where they stand and are unafraid to be there.  They emphasize family values, marital fidelity, and clean fun.  They remind the reader that these are things within the grasp of every person, no matter where they live, how much money they have, or any other physical circumstance.  We all have the ability to find the good in every situation, and to live every day glad to be living, and glad to  be living with those we love.

Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms

//by Harriet Lummis Smith//published 1924//

potobOkay, so I just spent like five minutes trying to find out more information about the Glad Series as a whole, and how they went from Eleanor Porter to having several other people writing sequels, but came up pretty much empty.  Anyone else know??

All I know is that the third book in the Pollyanna series is written, not by the original author – Eleanor H. Porter – but by Harriet Lummis Smith.  And while I really enjoyed Porter’s books, I actually found Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms to be my favorite so far.

We begin with Jimmy and Pollyanna’s wedding and go from there, through the first year or so of their married life.  They move to Boston so Jimmy can begin his new engineering career, and Pollyanna settles into homemaking joyously.  I had read this book before, but had been several years – this is the first time I’ve read this book since I got married, and I actually found myself in sympathy with Pollyanna several times as she tried to figure out the strange mystery of her much-loved husband!

Jimmy and Pollyanna are a delightful couple.  While by no means perfect, they sincerely work together as a team to make their marriage work.  Jimmy works six-and-a-half days a week (and calls it normal), and Pollyanna, despite living in town, does her own canning and sewing.  They are happy, industrious, and productive.  They make friends, have little adventures, and Pollyanna continues to live by her central theme of finding silver linings to every cloud.

It felt as though her tendency towards constant gladness could get old or annoying as Pollyanna grew into adulthood, but Smith transitions our heroine well.  While Pollyanna doesn’t talk about her “game” as much, she lives it, which is very effective preaching.

I absolutely love the relationship between these two, and love the way that they grow from that early ecstatic love to the calmer-but-still-passionate enduring kind of love that is built on friendship, camaraderie, and the complete confidence that you are on the same team.

Actually, Pollyanna has a bit of an epiphany in that regards – Jimmy accidentally does something that completely messes up Pollyanna’s careful household planning, and she is understandably upset.  As Jimmy is trying to explain his perspective –

Pollyanna suddenly realized that Jimmy was pleading his cause as if she had been a judge, and he the prisoner at the bar.  And with that realization came the knowledge that this was no way to face the situation.  The problem was not hers, complicated by his blunder, but a partnership affair.

When Pollyanna is able to recognize and accept that the best way to tackle their problem is not by blaming – even justified – Jimmy, but by standing shoulder to shoulder and working through the problem together.  This kind of teamwork is echoed throughout the story, as both of them learn the importance of letting go of personal petty hurts for the good of the team.

Much of Pollyanna’s character is seen through the eyes of her new neighbor and friend, Judith.  Judith is a new bride as well, but comes to her housekeeping with a completely different attitude.  It is so interesting to me how Smith handles the differences in the two marriages, skillfully showing how two couples, similar in age, location, background, and financial situation, are completely different because of their attitudes.  Jimmy tells Pollyanna regularly that she is what makes it easy to be a patient husband, and that if he was married to someone like Judith! Well!  And Pollyanna says the same of Jimmy.  Judith, who eventually hears about Pollyanna’s Glad Game, is slow to make changes, but does have a bit of an epiphany one day –

She realized that Pollyanna’s sunny cheerfulness was not due to her having an easier time than other people, but because she had made a life-long habit of looking for the cheerful side of the most unpromising situations. …  she realized more and more that drudgery is not dependent on the amount of work to be done, but is altogether concerned with the spirit.

Judith’s growth is a wonderful little side story.

In the second half of the book or so, the States enters World War I, and Jimmy goes off to be a soldier.  And here occurred the one thing about this story that really, really irritated me…  Pollyanna doesn’t tell Jimmy that she’s going to have a baby because she doesn’t want it to impact his choice/make him more hesitant to go to war.  Women not telling their men that they’re having that man’s baby REALLY gets on my nerves.  Pollyanna’s pregnancy absolutely should impact Jimmy’s decision and deserves to know that she is having his baby.  For a book that emphasizes the teamwork in marriage all throughout, the message falls flat when it comes to the baby – it is Pollyanna’s baby and Pollyanna’s decision about when/if the father should know.  Gah.

However, that is a very minor complaint.  Overall, I absolutely loved this book and found it completely delightful.  While it would make more sense to read it if you’ve read the first two books, I also think that it could pretty comfortably stand on its own.  I definitely recommend Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms.