Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Sixteen Brides

Stephanie Grace Whitson was researching another book at the Nebraska State Archives when she saw the following article, titled "Attractive Widows," in an old newspaper:
“Another cargo of war widows arrived in X last Wednesday morning, sixteen in number and filed upon claims adjacent to town. This was decidedly the best lot of widows that has arrived thus far.”
That became the basis for the book Sixteen Brides

Set in 1871, mostly in Nebraska, this book is the story of six fictional war widows, out of a group of sixteen, that headed west for a better life.  The author thanks the women of the Dawson County Historical Society for their assistance in researching the real stories of some of the hundreds of single women who successfully homesteaded in the West, which helps me to know these stories are based in the realities of the time.

I love historical fiction, especially historical fiction that makes me feel like I am there.  Maybe it is partially due to where I have lived (North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado), but in reading scenes like one with a spring snowstorm, I could almost feel the wind and the chill. 

The basic storyline is that sixteen women set out for Nebraska and the promise of free land - homesteads - close to town.  They are unaware that ads like the one above were being placed, and that the man behind the Ladies' Emigration Society was making his real money by selling spots on the ladies' dance cards.

Six of the women object, and stay on in Plum Grove, Nebraska.  This book tells their stories.  A southern belle.  A general's widow and her tween son.  A mother and daughter who are very different.  A rough talking divorcee.  And a shy young woman who learned some doctorin' from her physician husband.  These people band together, and their stories -- and the stories of some of the men and women they meet in Plum Grove -- are woven together to form this book.

I couldn't put it down.  I will look for other titles by Whitson, particularly titles set on the Plains.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Herr said...

Hi Debra,

I LOVE the name of your blog!!

This book seems very good. I too love historical fiction and will be adding this to my 'to read' list. Although I am a tad overwhelmed by all the new stuff that I've gotten myself into... : ) TOS crew (yes, I'm newbie), preaching course with my dh... when will I read?? : )

Best be off to go and paint the kids room.

Elizabeth Herr