A Light In The Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick ~ An Historical Fiction Review

Jane Kirkpatrick
Historical Fiction

Back Of The Book:

Three very different women. One dangerous journey. 
And a future that seems just out of reach.

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause most white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.

Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband and she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.

As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip your heart and mind as you travel on the dusty and dangerous Oregon Trail into the boundless American West. Based on a true story.


My Thoughts:

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I find it fascinating to read about the journeys of those that have gone before us. One of the authors that does this genre better than most is Jane Kirkpatrick. She finds accounts of ordinary women that accomplish extraordinary things and brings their stories to light. In a press release I received here is what Jane said about writing stories about these women:
“I think women like Letitia inspire us to greater things,” says Kirkpatrick. “I like telling the stories of ordinary women – such a Letitia – who are really extraordinary. Their stories resonate with contemporary women and allow a reader to ask themselves how they would deal with that kind of challenge and to see that the strengths these women demonstrate are present in our own lives. I like to celebrate these women and let them teach me about living with what I have now.”
A Light In The Wilderness is the story of three women, Letitia Carson, a freed-slave, Nancy Hawkins, a doctor’s wife, and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian. Letitia and Nancy are traversing the Oregon Trail with their husbands and children hoping to make a life in this new territory. Betsy and her grandson are native to the Oregon territory.

The story goes back and forth between the travelers on the trail and Betsy, who is already in Oregon territory. I've always been fascinated with those that were brave enough to strike out to lands unknown. Jane has written a story that  allows us to journey along with these determined pioneers. She takes us through the hardships and the triumphs, she allows us to grieve the deaths and celebrate new life. With a cringe-worthy honesty we get to experience through Leticia what it would be like to travel as a freed slave with a white husband.

The majority of the book is about the journey to Oregon. I was struck by how important the friendships of other women would become during this endless time of putting one foot in front of the other. I can't even begin to imagine the loneliness that you would feel being isolated not only by location but also by skin color. The friendship between Letitia, Nancy and Betsy was a beautiful portrait of what can happen when you just care for someone because they are made in God's image.

If you are interested in reading about strong women overcoming very trying circumstances I think you will enjoy A Light In The Wilderness. I learned fascinating details (especially in the author's notes) and had the opportunity to contemplate how I would have reacted in similar situations. It is a great read for anyone that has always longed to be a pioneer themselves.

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Photo Credit: © Carole Marie Photography

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