A Light in the Wilderness
Release Date Sept. 2014
Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause 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 that 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 readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.
Though Letitia’s been freed, she can’t truly leave the cruel reality of slavery behind her. She cringes at the harsh life many others, still enslaved, face each day. But more than that, she carries with her the crippling fear that her newfound freedom will be ripped from her. All she has to prove her status, after all, are papers she can’t even read. Papers that can be taken from her, destoryed, or lost, sending her back into bondage. Besides, even those don’t guarantee her freedom, not when hateful patrollers are about, looking for someone to beat down. But if she could get to Oregon, then she could truly be free.
This was one of the most gripping, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking novels I’ve read in some time. Ms. Kirkpatrick did a masterful job with each of her characters, but the one I loved most was Letitia. Oh, sweet, strong, frightened, weak Letitia! There were so many times I wished someone would help you! Shield you from the hatred swirling all around you.
When we first encounter this sweet woman of faith, she’s beaten down, muted by her fear. But holding tight to her papers, she fights for the confidence deserving of a freed woman. Regardless if others accept her or her status. But so long as her confidence rests on those papers—which she can’t even read!—she will never truly be freed from her terror.
In Letitiia we see an authentic mix of fear and courage, of conviction and insecurity, coupled with a determination that propels her forward. And with each step forward, she fights to leave her bitterness behind, dropping it down before it even has a chance to take root. For hatred is a type of slavery she refuses to embrace.
Then there’s Davey, the man who shows her kindness and maybe even something more. When we first met Davey, I wasn’t sure what to think of him. He was quite kind and gentle, considering his times. But even so, he held a fair amount of male chauvinism, at least early on. But then again, characters without flaws, even those that infuriate us on occasion, fall flat. And yet, even with his flaws, for the most part Davey was an honorable man who strived to do what was right. Not that he always knew what the right thing to do was!
Though he did lie and hide the truth on more than one occasion, internally justifying his behavior when he did so. This angered me on more than one occasion, and yet, in many ways, it was his irksome behavior that made him most authentic.
If you enjoy deep, authentic, and historically rich novels, you’ll love A Light in the Wilderness. But keep a box of tissues handy, for this one’s a tear-jerker!
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery