SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND
Donna Baier Stein
Serving House Books (2019)
Reviewed by Verna Coy for Reader Views (08/2020)
“Scenes from the Heartland” by Donna Baier Stein is a compilation of stories based on artworks that were created by well-known lithographer and artist Thomas Hart Benton.
The theme of this book is one of artistic interpretation and literary translation. It is the balancing of two forms of creativity into one volume of perspective. Have you ever looked at a picture, painting, or lithograph and imagined the story it could tell? Imagine no further! In this book, the stories are woven around each piece of artwork for your enjoyment.
The stories are told with an original and straightforward style of writing and capture the essence of each work, delivering one writer’s perspective on what she sees in the artist’s mind. Each person indeed considers artwork differently, depending entirely upon how they feel about the work when they see it. Many art forms evoke deep emotion. Some cause introspection.
In this book, each artwork inspired the author to create characters around the sweetness or even hardship depicted by the artist. The differences between each well-developed character were striking. This style of writing kept the pace of the book moving along nicely throughout.
What I liked most about this book was the thoughtfulness it provoked as I read each part. The history and depth that can be captured in a moment on canvas or in a photo are immense, and I appreciated how the author was able to weave this unique tale using each image highlighted in this work.
In each story, the author was able to achieve the illustration’s mood upon which it is based. It leads me to feel that the drawings were made for the stories, rather than the other way around. That shows real literary and artistic success!
All in all, I was pleased with “Scenes from the Heartland” by Donna Baier Stein in the sense that the author achieved precisely what she set out to accomplish. This book is a beautiful interpretation of Americana that captures the feel of a specific point in history. There are instances of profanity and sexual content in this book, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 18 years of age. I also went away with a strange feeling of sadness after finishing the book. For these reasons, I rate this book with 4 out of 5 stars. Fans of Americana and history will enjoy this book.