In 1844, two years before the Donner Party, the Stevens-Murphy company left Missouri to be the first wagons into California through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mostly Irish Catholics, the party sought religious freedom and education in the mission-dominated land and enjoyed a safe journey–until October, when a heavy snowstorm forced difficult decisions. The first of many for young Mary Sullivan, newlywed Sarah Montgomery, the widow Ellen Murphy, and her pregnant sister-in-law Maolisa.
When the party separates in three directions, each risks losing those they loved and faces the prospect of learning that adversity can destroy or redefine. Two women and four men go overland around Lake Tahoe, three men stay to guard the heaviest wagons–and the rest of the party, including eight women and seventeen children, huddle in a makeshift cabin at the headwaters of the Yuba River waiting for rescue . . . or their deaths.
Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick plunges you deep into a landscape of challenge where fear and courage go hand in hand for a story of friendship, family, and hope that will remind you of what truly matters in times of trial.
I have mixed thoughts on this book. I was so excited to start reading it based on the book blurb. I needed to know if these families would live or die! Unfortunately the amount of characters in the book made it hard for me to keep everyone straight. I tried to piece together which woman was married to which man, and who the children belonged to, but it was just hard for me. Too much for me to try and remember as I was reading the book. However, I do understand that could be something that not everyone has a problem with. Some readers may in fact love the amount of characters presented. So please, take this thought very lightly.
On the plus side, the journey itself was fascinating. Kirkpatrick writes descriptions and paragraphs to make you feel as if you are on the journey with these families. You could feel the bumps as the wagons moved, feel the fear during dangerous parts, and sigh right along with the characters as they got through tough situations. I found myself learning a bit about such a treacherous trail, and wanting to learn even more by visiting the history books. Yes, you can learn a thing or two by reading a fiction novel! Kirkpatrick must have spent hours upon hours researching everything that would apply to this book. Her efforts should not go unnoticed.
Overall, I think historic fans who want to learn more about the 1840s, or the tough journeys people had to go on to get to California, will enjoy this book. The breathtaking settings will amaze you! I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
If you’d like more information about me, please come visit my website at www.jkbooks.com and click on my blog. My dog also has a blog and you can find out what it’s like to be Bodacious Bo, too. A monthly newsletter called Story Sparks is my way of sharing books about authors I enjoy as well as commenting on life and love. You’ll find out more about me than you probably ever wanted to know!
One item not listed on my lists of books is my selection included in an anthology called “Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West” published by Houghton Mifflin I also have a piece in Storytellers II, a book published a few years ago by Multnomah Press and a few short selections in Daily Guideposts of a few years back. My first novella, “The Courting Quilt” is part of a collection that made the New York Times bestsellers September 2011 in a collection called Log Cabin Christmas. The rest of my writing, as they say, is history. Or it was until my first contemporary came out this fall. Called Barcelona Calling, it’s the story of a writer who loses her way as she seeks fulfillment thinking she’ll find it with fame. It’s a laugh out loud book according to reviewers. I hope you’ll enjoy it.