okay, i'm done!
there's not really a plot.
i really liked the book -- i wasn't sure if crying by page fifteen was going to bear out, but i found i really like cather's writing, period. she accomplishes a lot in straight forward memoir as narrative, and i like the sense of nostalgia that permeates the book. i have read that cather was friends with sarah orne jewett, author of the country of the pointed firs (fantastic book - thanks ben? patty?) and the two share a lot in style and approach with vignette/chapters that all stand on their own. but while i adored the pointed firs, and think for me, it is a superior book, for all its stillness it didn't have an antonia. and i'm going to compare antonia to daisy buchanan in gatsby, or faulkner's caddy, or helen of troy. she's that girl that dreams are made of. antonia is an infusion, she's like the river that jim so loved, threading herself into his life so that even when he is away from her they're merged in my mind, they've imprinted upon each other so much that i can't really think of him without her, and i think that some epic characterization -- cather is a vivid and powerful writer, really adept at description, capable of writing a novel that seems a perfect memory perfectly recounted. it feels very much as if this all really happened in just the way cather describes it, and that she was a boy named jim, but also a girl named antonia, and the reader is also there, in the days before radio, tv, movies sitting as enthralled as the other children listening to her tell the stories.
highlights: when tony recalls the story of the tramp and the thresher. also, the whole weirdness with krajiek and the axe! the story of the russian bride! i really loved the little gothic moments, the secrets of neighbours, and the barely suppressed violence of life the underbelly of society just springing up in the place johnny carson grew up -- his show was the first i ever heard of nebraska, when i was knee-high to a grasshopper writing him letters on my kermit the frog stationery. :)
(cheatery because this is an edited excerpt i posted on our group read at fiction files redux: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/639816-my-antonia-by-willa-cather)