The Awakening Land is a made-for-TV movie which first aired in 1978 and has only very recently been released for home viewing. Shortly after the American Revolution, the Lucketts, a backwoods family from Pennsylvania, travel to create a new home for themselves on the Ohio frontier. We first meet Sayward Luckett (Elizabeth Montgomery), the central character, as a 15-year-old girl. Although Sayward is completely illiterate, she marries the most erudite man to be found in the vicinity: Portius Wheeler (Hal Holbrook), aka “the solitary,” a former Massachussetts lawyer and an agnostic. The story follows Sayward, her family, and her neighbors from the early days of sparse settlement up through the creation of a thriving town.
A wonderful film, highly recommended. The movie was based on Conrad Richter’s trilogy The Trees, The Fields, and The Town. The books are also excellent…reading the first two of the series, it struck me that Richter is better at descriptions of the natural environment than at describing the inner life of the characters–however, this changes noticeably in the third book, where the characters become much more fully-developed. The books are also very much worth reading.