In the early 1800s, Thomas Beard bought a plot of land in what would later become Illinois. Over two centuries later, the town he founded still exists, having withstood many of the tests which plague small towns in America, either killing them outright or draining them away piece by piece. To me, this was one of the most interesting parts of the book: reading a snippet of the history of a place I had never heard of before.
Beardstown reads more like a legend of the eponymous town’s founding than an actual novel, or perhaps the town is the real protagonist, and Thomas Beard is only the mentor who helps it along the way. The town is really the only thing that grows and changes over the course of the book, but I don’t see either of these as excuses for sloppy writing. The characters were flat at times, but on the whole, it worked for me.
I would recommend this book to people interested in the history of the midwest, particularly those who don’t mind books that focus more on the men of the area than the women. (That was the one thing I truly couldn’t stand about the book, but it’s often inescapable in certain aspects of historical fiction.)