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Whispered Secrets Whispered Prayers

By Donna Mack, Honeybees Press, Pueblo, Colorado, 294 pages, softcover.


The novel is set in 1947 is a marrow deep story of a farm family of Germans from Russia who settled on the prarie of North Dakota.

The Foreword of the books shares: “It seems that many of these Germans from Russia (also known as “Other Germans”, or Ruzlanders”) came last as settlers in the American Midwest. For generations, in Russia they had clung to their outdated German ways as best they could, never considering themselves Russian. When they left, most were stripped of everything but their sheep skin coats with its pockets full of sunflower seeds. They settled what was left of the American plains and prairies from Texas to North Dakota. With their outdated language and background ways, they were often shunned by other German immigrants and because of the World Wars shunned by other Americans as well. Whispered Prayers, Whispered Secrets is a story of one such family. It is ultimately about forgiving and accepting; themselves and each other.”

“It is a marrow-deep, character-driven story in the tradition of O.E. Rolvaag’s classic Giants of the Earth. Set on the desolate North American wind-flattened prairie, under the vast dome of pitiless sky, the novel is a tense psychological and surreal drama. The poor rocky land is itself a powerful character, as is the vast ever-changing sky shifting with the narrative from dreamy solitude to churning conflict.

Urs Wagnor, an immigrant German from Russia, is a sometimes crude and prideful tenant farmer with a fierce love for land that should be his. Instead, in the spring of 1947, in the wake of farm failures and foreclosures, his fields belong to “Humpy” Chris, a calculating landlord deformed in body and soul, who begrudges men like Urs, scratching lives from the poor North Dakota soil. Urs doesn’t own his land any more than he owns the heart of his wife, Margaret, who loves the God that sustains her, just as it sustained her German peasant ancestors who settled and struggled on the Russian steppes a century before.

Urs, Chris and Margaret are unwittingly ensnared in a web of calamity and ruin. Only seven-year-old Annie, Urs’s and Margaret’s child, possesses the innocent powers of insight, imagination and compassion that might save them from themselves.

Whispered Secrets Whispered Prayers is a marrow-deep, character-driven story in the tradition of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. The simple words and sentiments of common people belie the enormity and danger of human passions and their twisted and hidden source. Set on the desolate North American wind-flattened prairie, under the vast dome of pitiless sky, the novel also recalls the terse, tense psychological and surreal drama of O.E. Rolvaag’s classic Giants in the Earth.

About the author

Many decades ago, I was awarded a stipend from the National Endowment for the Arts and later earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Then I helped raise a family, became active in human rights organizations, and with my sister Jane, started a small import business. Though I remained intrigued by the Germans from Russia, my husband told me about, I put away the novel I’d begun. Now I am an old woman and, while I traveled the world with the import business, I still wanted to know more about the little known Germans from Russia who helped settle the American Prairies and Plains. Whispered Secrets Whispered Prayers is a marrow gritty, psychological and surreal story about one such family. It is my first novel, I divide my time between Homer, Alaska and Pueblo, Colorado.


Whispered Secrets, Whispered Prayers

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North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
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