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Reader's Corner: The story that started it all

Recently, it happened again.

 

I encountered a person who is considering relocating to the Branson area for retirement. They were looking forward to the proximity to lakes, the beautiful scenery, and the family-friendly atmosphere, but chatting with them, I learned they hadn’t read The Shepherd of the Hills.

 

A couple of years ago, this column urged visitors to Missouri to seek out the classic literature connected with historic sites in the state—including Mark Twain and Hannibal, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mansfield, and Harold Bell Wright and Branson. Long before the music shows, attractions on “the Strip,” or even Silver Dollar City, Wright found peace and solace in the fresh, clean air and the Ozark Mountains. He came to love the simple, straightforward ways of the area and the people, especially John and Anna Ross, whose homestead became his campsite and home base as he wrote the book that would become the first novel to break one million copies sold in the United States.

 

The book’s success attracted readers to the Ozarks to experience the views and meet the people for themselves. Not only did it play an important role in the Branson area’s early tourism, but the emphasis on faith in “Shepherd” and Wright’s other novels is thought by many people to have been influential the continuing values of faith, family and patriotism still prominent in the area today.

 

So, if you haven’t read the novel, do it! As you immerse yourself in Wright’s masterful blending of love, forgiveness and timeless values, along with mystery, drama and the consequences of both good and bad choices, you’ll see why it was not only popular in 1907 but also continues to receive positive reviews from contemporary readers on online retail sites. While young children won’t understand all the themes in the book, in this writer’s experience even “tweens” were intrigued by the mystery and suspense as our family read it aloud, and they later read the book for themselves with greater understanding of how the mystery and action parts set the stage for deeper issues.

 

Copies are available at several area businesses, at major online retailers, and of course, at the Shepherd of the Hills family adventure park, where the owners over the years have done a marvelous job of creating a family experience on the very land where the story happened.  

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