First Printing. Signed by the Author.
I received and signed a three-book contract with Jove Publications, a subsidiary of Berkley Publishing Company, on June 12, 1978 and a reversion of rights agreement on May 19, 1983. Between those dates I submitted A Sister of Service, later renamed The Reformer's Apprentice: A Novel of Old San Francisco, and an outline for a third book, optioned in the contract to complete the trilogy recommended by Kitty Hawks Tanen. On February 25, 1981, I received a letter from Demaris Rowland, by then my third editor, in which she advised me that "Jove has decided to combine your two novels, A Sister of Service and So Far Away [Originally and thereafter The First Lady of Dos Cacahuates] into one book whose length will be 320 pages, finished book. This will require that you cut a total of approximately 230 manuscript pages, or 76,000 words." By then my champion had divorced and the acquisitions editor had disappeared. I had two options: return the $20,000 advance and retrieve my two novels intact, or insist on amputating one-third of each novel myself. Publication was scheduled for November, 1981. I don't recall when I started to edit, but I do remember shifts of typists working twenty-four hours a day for two weeks to meet Jove's deadline. So Far Away was in print for eighteen months, sold 34,000 copies and was retired. Intelligent reviews, even for the butchered So Far Away, kept me going, as did On Her Way Home, Book Three in the Desert Dwellers Trilogy.
The following simpering synopsis appeared on Jove's mass market back cover.
As the first born child of one of San Francisco's successful Jewish merchants, Frieda Levie mingled with the velvet-gowned daughters of that city's elite. But when her family is suddenly plunged into poverty, the seventeen-year-old girl enters a world of back-breaking labor... running her father's boarding house, suffocating under the iron-bound traditions and the never-ending squabbles of the Levie clan. Only marriage and a man offered a shining way out. For Frieda, that man was Bennie Goldson, the handsome, enterprising cowboy who wanted to make her the first lady of Dos Cacahuates-the newborn Arizona town perched on the Mexican border. There, in a wilderness both beautiful and danger-ridden, life offered her temptation, hardship-and the kind of golden triumphs only a woman can know.
"Rochlin is a superb interpreter of Jewish types and Jewish activities in the West, and her talents as a writer are impressive. She gets it all in -- the harsh realities along with the shining illusions, shame and sin along with joy and triumph, courage and hope along with despair -- but best of all, the juices of life flow in every man and woman." - C.L. Sonnichsen, Ph.D., Western historian and authority on Western fiction, Journal of Arizona History, Spring, 1982
"So Far Away by Harriet Rochlin is the result of the author's own American-Jewish-Mexican heritage and years of research into Western pioneer Jews. It is the story of Frieda Levie, a wildly idealistic young Jewish woman in 19th century San Francisco and the Arizona Territory who, inspired by pioneer feminists, rejects the servile housebound role imposed on her by a volatile, traditional father....Escaping from a narrow and carefully regulated existence, Frieda emerges as a respected individual in a multi-cultural frontier town, and the future matriarch of a vibrant Western line." - Phoenix Jewish News, January 22, 1982
"I just finished reading So Far Away, and I couldn't put it down. It was so good, I hated to see it end." - Sylvia Arden, Head Librarian/Archivist, San Diego Historical Society
"What a story! So many things so very close to me are woven into the fabric of this tale....Is there a sequel? A trilogy? The ending really made me want to read more." - Sue Spater, Director, Pimeria Alta Historical Society, Nogales, Arizona
"So Far Away is real and moving as a newly discovered letter from your great-grandmother. It is neither white hats fighting black hats, nor one of the newer tales of kinky cowboys. An authentic recreation of the open and pluralistic Far West, it is peopled by both sexes, of various races, religions, and nationalities." - Marilyn Sorel, Author/writing instructor
"Rochlin demonstrates an admirable ‘ring of truth' and knowledgeability of this little known aspect of American Jewish history because her novel is based on historical research. Read it to find out how it was with the first Jews who came out West...or read it as pure fiction-the story of a young Jewish heroine, Frieda Levie of San Francisco, who marries Ben Goldson and goes with him to live in a small, new Arizona town on the Mexican border, surrounded by a cast of unidealized, varied characters." - Grace Kirschenbaum, Judaica Book News
"The author... has a fine understanding of the romance of Jews and Jewish life, and more especially of the conditions and vicissitudes that Jewish pioneers encountered in nineteenth centry Southwestern territories such as Arizona." - Norton B. Stern, Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly
Jove Publications (1981-1982)
Mass market paperback, $3.95