The Kindly Fruits of the Earth may best be described as Hudson’s life work, given that she spent many decades research and writing the manuscript. Her hopes for this effort were very high – not just the publication of the book – she also dreamt of it becoming a movie, and even had her preference for a leading man determined.
The novel opens in 1850, and tells the story of a young Boston schoolmaster, Daniel, and his lovely and intelligent wife, Laura (named for Hudson’s older daughter). Daniel, tiring of his teaching duties, decides to travel west to join the gold rush and find his fortune. Laura, in the manner of the time, moves in with Daniel’s parents to wait for him to send for her. The story follows the trials, tribulations – the maelstrom and tempests – of their separate lives. There are no joys, to speak of.
In true Hudson fashion, this novel has been researched to the smallest detail; there is, with Hudson, always ample reference to environmental destruction, politics, philosophy, religion, morality, and lack thereof. Her lifelong interest in Native American tribes, customs, issues and treatment is deeply interwoven into parts of the work.
The most complete known copy of the manuscript runs almost 600 pages – it does not flow smoothly, cohesively – from one “chapter” to the next. Although Hudson received advances on its publication, the work was never deemed ready for print. One major problem was the sheer length of it; some sources say that at one point it was almost 1000 pages. Other issues included something of a lack of focus/too many stories, and that those stories were unnecessary and/or incompletely told. Some passages are so graphically written that even today they might give a publisher pause – a description of a bear baiting exhibition is one such instance.
At this time, we are considering options for possibly publishing the work exactly as it is, putting it out there as another aspect; another insight, into the multifaceted person that Lois Phillips Hudson was.