The subtitle of Jonathan Raban’s Bad Land: An American Romance (Pantheon Books, 1996) says it all. This Englishman’s paean to the homesteading of eastern Montana during the early 20th century is exhilarating as well heartbreaking. Raban provides the history of this settlement through the stories of people lured to this vast prairie area by the promise of a free 320-acre plot and the attendant hopes of becoming prosperous farmers. Courted by the railroad, reality soon hit home to those who fell for the duplicitous promises made, with disastrous results.
A beautiful and riveting account.