Kirkpatrick penned a fascinating story, blending fiction and
fact, about a free black woman from Missouri who traveled the Oregon Trail to
the Oregon Territory. Letitia moved from
Kentucky to Missouri with the Bowman family, set free by the Patriarch she
continued to serve them until their move to Oregon. Remaining behind in
Missouri she stayed with Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant. Eventually they form a closer bond and when
Carson heads out for Oregon, she goes along.
Nancy Hawkins is not keen to head for Oregon, but her husband Zachariah
is determined. Eventually Letitia’s path
crosses with Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian, and her grandson Little Shoot. Betsy is trying to teach him the ways of his
people in a changing world. Known for
telling the story of strong women who made significant contributions to history
and her meticulous historical research, Kirkpatrick brings us a story that is
like stepping back in time. What would
life be like for a black woman trying to live free in the days before the Civil
War? Although her papers declared her freedom, the Bowman’s continued to treat
her as a slave. Patrols roamed the nights, sometimes grabbing a free black
person, destroying their papers and selling them off for a tidy profit. In Missouri Letitia could not buy property,
even buying the cow, Charity, she required the help of Davey Carson, a white
man. Her life is full of struggle but also determination and an admirable
belief in her self-sufficiency. The
story takes the reader through the ways of life in Missouri, on to the travails
of journeying on the Oregon Trail, to conditions in Oregon where Letitia’s
struggles to preserve her rights are far from over as she faces fresh challenges. Nancy and Betsy are both very sympathetic
characters. Nancy illustrating the
choices a woman could face as a settler and Betsy showing the hardships of the
changing circumstances for Native Americans.
I do not want to give too much of the plot away, as the women in this
story persevered in accomplishing remarkable acts!
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.
About the Author
Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the coveted Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy Award, Spur Award, Oregon Book Award, and Reader's Choice awards, and have won the WILLA Literary Award and Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Many of her titles have been Book of the Month and Literary Guild selections. You can also read her work in more than fifty publications, including Decision, Private Pilot, and Daily Guideposts. Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.