Dakota Dawn, Dream, and Dusk

Dakota series by Lauraine Sneling

Lauraine Snelling wrote a series of five novellas about Norwegian immigrants to North Dakota in the 1900s. The first three, Dakota Dawn, Dakota Dream, and Dakota Dusk, were packaged together in a free-with-my-subscription audiobook. I don’t know what’s up with the picture on the cover—no one dressed that way in the 1900s!

In Dakota Dawn, Norah Johanson’s fiance had gone to America three years ago, promising to send for her. Now she’s on her way. But when she arrives, she finds that Hans has just recently died. Reverend and Mrs. Moen take her in for as long as she needs to decide what to do. She doesn’t have the money to go back home, so she must find work.

Carl Detchman is a quiet but stubborn German immigrant whose wife has just died in childbirth. The Moens have taken care of his young daughter and infant son, but he can’t expect them to do so forever. The Moen’s house guest who has been helping with the children seems capable. But he can’t invite a beauitful young single woman to his home without tongues wagging. So he proposes a marriage of convenience. If she’ll come and keep house and take care of the children until he can make other arrangements, then they can annul the marriage and he’ll pay for her ticket back home.

Norah is shocked at first, but agrees. And, of course, the two fall in love. This is a frequently seen story line with an inevitable conclusion, but it was enjoyable to see the two work through their issues and come first to appreciate, and then to love each other.

In Dakota Dream, Clara Johanson, Norah’s sister, received a ticket to her sister’s town and a picture from a handsome stranger offering to pay her way to Dakota if she’ll be his wife. Clara agrees. But when she arrives at her sister’s house, no one knows who this man is.

What she doesn’t know is that Jude Weinlander brought Clara over to play a trick on his brother, Dag. He signed Dag’s name to the letter but sent his own picture. Dag is tasked with meeting Clara at the train station and taking her to the Detchman’s. He does not make a good first impression, with matted hair and beard and filth from the livery where he works.

Clara stays with her sister until the pastor asks if she can come and stay with an elderly woman who is not doing well and needs full time care. Clara has no idea the change this will make in her life—and in her relationship with Dag.

In Dakota Dusk, Jude Weinlander is disgusted. His trick on Dag backfired. He’s run out of money due to drinking and gambling and has to move with his wife back to his mother’s house.

When a fire destroys his home, after he heals, he becomes a drifter, traveling from place to place looking for work. He doesn’t drink or gamble any more, but he can’t go home. He comes upon a town rebuilding their school after a prairie fire. He stays to help, and then is asked to stay on to help rebuild other homes.

He can’t help but notice the pretty school teacher, Rebekka Stenesrude. But he can never pursue a relationship. He’s not worthy. No one could love him if they learned what he had done.

These stories were set some years after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, so there are many similar incidents—grasshopper infestations, prairies fires, etc .But these stories are told primarily from the viewpoint of immigrants adjusting to a new land. I felt the same way I did after reading Laura’s books—glad I was born in my time and not hers!

There were so many hardships in those times. The services for help that we take for granted didn’t exist then, so people had to help each other, and accept help, or die.

But great faith and character emerged as well. I enjoyed these stories as well as the characters and the obstacles they overcame.