Nearly 40 years after reading Jesse Stuart's 1973 novel The Land Beyond the River the first time, I read it again recently. The story tells of a very large and very poor Kentucky family that views Ohio as the Promised Land and crosses the Ohio River to find prosperity. The Perkins family does find a better life in Ohio. Poppie finds work on a farm. Mommie keeps having babies until she's had 15, 14 of them living. The youngsters, including Pedike, our narrator, are polite and hard-working. Most of them are unusually good students.
The novel, Stuart's last, feels dated in some ways, yet it also reads like a commentary on the 2012 presidential campaign. At what point does government helping people become government hurting people? That was a good question back in 1973, and it's still a good question.