(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although Cross Creek was written for a general audience, it is especially appropriate for modern young adults, who are bombarded by suggestions that happiness comes from material possessions and self-indulgence. The people of Cross Creek own very little, many of them not even the land on which they live, but Rawlings makes it clear how rich they are and how much she has learned from them.

In her chapter “The Evolution of Comfort,” Rawlings describes her own situation in terms that should amaze her young readers. She is grateful that her house has a faucet; she could have been carrying all of her water. As for baths, she has an outside shower; she describes graphically how cold that experience can be in the winter. The other facilities are also outside. When she has enough money, she finally installs indoor plumbing, but the tone of the chapter is humorous. Obviously, physical comfort is a minor consideration when compared to the important things: that she is doing what she wants to do, living among interesting and basically good people, in a setting of breathtaking beauty.

The values that are important at Cross Creek have nothing to do with what one has or what others think. Instead, each individual lives by a personal code of conduct. Having herself rejected a highly sophisticated society, in which people are often governed only by appearances, Rawlings appreciates the independence of her new neighbors; like herself, they make their own decisions and then live by them. Even though she thinks that the Widow Slater is foolish for not having her children inoculated, Rawlings admires her refusal to bow to the opinions of others. Similarly, even though young Tim’s refusal to allow his wife to work causes additional hardship for the family, Rawlings sees his pride as admirable. The self-respect of the poorest of these people accounts for their integrity as well. One of the most touching stories in the book is the story of Mrs. Bernie Bass, who refuses Rawlings’ offer of free milk for her children. In order to keep her...

(The entire section is 844 words.)