I had read another book by Jane Kirkpatrick, Where Lilacs Still Bloom, that I reviewed on Amazon. My feelings about that book were a bit mixed... in the end, I really loved the book. However, it took a long time for me to "get into" the story, and I found the jumping around from one seemingly independent storyline to another quite distracting.
A Clearing in the Wild was quite different. It follows one person, a very young Emma Wagner, beginning with her life in the Bethel colony in Missouri, along the Oregon Trail, and into Washington Territory.
From the publisher:
Young Emma Wagner chafes at the constraints of Bethel colony, an 1850s religious community in Missouri that is determined to remain untainted by the concerns of the world. A passionate and independent thinker, she resents the limitations placed on women, who are expected to serve in quiet submission. In a community where dissent of any form is discouraged, Emma finds it difficult to rein in her tongue–and often doesn’t even try to do so, fueling the animosity between her and the colony’s charismatic and increasingly autocratic leader, Wilhelm Keil.As in her previous book, Kirkpatrick certainly seems to have done her research, and she creates characters that just feel real. Emma is clearly the most rounded character, as it is all told from her perspective.
Eventually Emma and her husband, Christian, are sent along with eight other men to scout out a new location in the northwest where the Bethelites can prepare to await “the last days.” Christian believes they’ve found the ideal situation in Washington territory, but when Keil arrives with the rest of the community, he rejects Christian’s choice in favor of moving to Oregon.
Emma pushes her husband to take this opportunity to break away from the group, but her longed-for influence brings unexpected consequences. As she seeks a refuge for her wounded faith, she learns that her passionate nature can be her greatest strength–if she can harness it effectively. - See more
I enjoyed this story, and found Emma's struggles to be a good wife really fascinating. I also really enjoy Kirkpatrick's pacing. This isn't a high-action novel, with events compressed into a short time period to make for an exciting tale. Nor do you get all the nitty-gritty of life on the Oregon Trail. The novel covers a fair amount of time, and it feels right. These events could occur in this time period.
This book is the first in the Change and Cherish Historical Series, and I will be looking into books two and three, so I can see where Emma does end up.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.