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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Gloria Zachgo's historical novel Never Waste Tears is the story of five young people who settle on the Kansas prairies after the Civil War. The five characters, Nathan, Rebecca, Carl, Hannah, and Sarah, are the narrators. The title Never Waste Tears comes from the story of the two sisters Hannah and Sarah. Their mother taught them to use their tears wisely, to help them through grief. In 1868, Nathan, 20, and Rebecca, 17, marry and leave their native Ohio to join a wagon train to Nebraska and Kansas. On the trek westwards, they become friends with Carl, 29, and his wife Hannah, 22. The two couples begin their homesteads as neighbors in Kansas. Rebecca dies within a few months. Nathan decides to continue to build their homestead. Hannah's sister Sarah joins the homesteaders in 1869.
I was captivated by Gloria Zachgo's Never Waste Tears for its compelling characters. I loved the rich details of the settings that bring to life their hopes, their struggles, grief, and joy. I liked the way Zachgo creates tension in the story through each character's individual fears, anger and misunderstandings. The pace, action, and tension in the story rise as the new homesteaders take on the challenges of a new life in dangerous and unknown territory. How each character responds to the prairies becomes very important. For Nathan and Carl, the prairies bring a sense of peace, of belonging. For Rebecca, there is only fear and loneliness. I liked the way Zachgo lets each character's courage, love and friendship come through when suffering, pain, and sorrow become unbearable. I liked the ending because it is one of hope for the future, of sharing a dream, even when each character brings a different approach to that dream.