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Gauchos & Gumption: My Argentine Honeymoon

1 rating: 5.0
Gauchoe & Gumption: My Argentine Honeymoon by Lynna Banning
1 review about Gauchos & Gumption: My Argentine Honeymoon

Compelling Memoir

  • Mar 20, 2012
  • by

At eighteen, Leora Marie Boessen leaves her school-teaching job and her Oregon home to marry Claude Banning, a grade school friend. The next day they set off for Argentina where her husband’s family eke out a living running cattle and operating a crude store.

Marie (she gave herself the name Leora because it sounded elegant, suitable for a schoolteacher) sets out on her Argentine adventure on crutches, having broken her ankle just four days before her wedding. She is adventurous and looks forward to her new life, yet is almost immediately homesick for the familiar and unsure of what her life will be. She barely knows her husband who seems not at all open to communication or the tenderness one would expect from a newly married man. She also is concerned about meeting her in-laws and what they will think of her.

After weeks of travel by train, steamship, even a horseback trek through the Isthmus of Panama (before the construction of the Panama Canal), another shipboard journey and still another horseback journey, they reach their final destination, a lonely station in the Argentine wilds, far from Buenos Aires. It is here the real adventure begins–a life of incredibly hard work with few creature comforts. It will take a strong will and determination for young Marie to succeed in the rugged setting. There are many struggles in adapting to her new life, but when she finds herself pregnant and hundreds of miles from a hospital, it becomes a test of real endurance.

Gauchos & Gumption is the fictionalized version of a true story of the author’s grandmother; Ms. Banning’s mother was baby Mary, born in Buenos Aires, and Marie’s narrative is from stories she told to her granddaughter, Lynna Banning.

I loved reading about Marie and her encounters with life’s hardships in early twentieth century Argentina. The details give just enough of Marie’s feelings to make the reader empathize with her. I read the novella in one sitting, fascinated to live vicariously the adventure through Marie’s eyes. Her relationship with her husband Claude and his parents was convincingly told but did little to make me want to share the adventure. Her mother-in-law Lizzie and the Indian girl Angelita provided Marie’s only feminine companionship during her time in the Argentine and were her only comforts, but even they couldn’t dissuade her from her determination to return to Oregon.

Ms. Banning writes beautifully, with wonderfully descriptive prose and compelling characters. The tone of the memoir perfectly captures the time period, and the narrative is beautifully enhanced by photos taken by Marie with her box camera.

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