This was the first book that I can remember reading in fiction that had actual real people in it. The author Jane Kirkpatrick researched history throughly about Letitia Carson and felt her story was one that needed telling. Letitia was a former slave that had lost her two children. One that died shortly after birth and another that was sold away from her and died later. She was given freedom papers by the Bowman family that were later lost by accident. She became the common law wife of Davy Carson, an Irish immigrant. A lot of the story follows their journey west on a wagon train heading to the Oregon country, not yet a state. Davy assures her that Oregon does not allow slavery to help ease her mind. Together they have two children, Martha and Adam. Letitia makes friends with Nancy Hawkins and they remain close friends all the way through the story. She also makes friends with Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian and her grandson. These three women learn from each other and form strong bonds. Letitia is such a strong woman and learns to stand up for herself. I saw parallels in Letitia and Betsy's lives. Women were not treated fairly as it was but the Indian and Colored women were treated less than human in so many instances. When Letitia eventually lost her "husband" Davy, her real strength and fight began to come out. She wanted to make sure her children were taken care of and would never have to worry about being sold or taken away from her. In a real documented court case she stood up for what was rightfully hers and won her case twice. The authors notes in the back pulled the real history events into focus for the reader and I found them very enlightening. She has a real gift of words and used some expressions I've never heard before that painted wonderful visuals for me. This was an interesting novel that I found hard to put down once I began reading it.
I won this book on Bookfun.org and was not required to review it. But I have given my honest opinion.
A Light in the Wilderness is a historical fiction that is based on fact. The main character, Letitia, actually existed. The principle points of history and her part in them actually happened although the minute details have been lost over time. However, official records contain enough information that along with the well-researched facts of events of that time period, the author's fictionalization makes this character and other main players in the story, come alive. The book is well worth the time to read. I highly recommend it.
Letitia was a former slave for the Bowman family in Kentucky. Before the senior Bowman passed on, he freed her and provided her papers to prove her status. Later, when the younger Bowman and his wife moved to Missouri, she went with them. They bartered with her, trading her care of their children for a place to live. During her years in Missouri, she obtained a job at a local hotel doing the laundry, making up the rooms and occasionally serving drinks in the evenings. She also possessed the skills of a midwife. With her savings she bought her own milk cow and earned a little more income selling the milk. For a person with such a tiny stature, she had a big heart and a strong, determined, enterprising personality. In the pre-civil war days, life was especially hard for free blacks. They were often despised by slaves and whites alike. But Letitia was proud of her status as a free woman. She valued and carefully guarded her papers at all times.
In the purest sense of the term, this book is not really a romance. There are romantic elements in the story, but my opinion is that Davey and Tish stayed together because he was kind, generous and needed a partner, while Tish needed his protection and security and was fond of him. She didn't mind providing him with children. I consider this tale more of a historical fiction than a romance. Still, their relationship provided a catalyst for change toward maturity in their lives. Letitia grew in confidence about her place in life, while Davey settled down a bit more to be a responsible husband and father. However, that restlessness of his got him into trouble one last time and cost him his life.
The author, Jane Kirkpatrick, is a true storyteller. She created characters that were easy for me to empathize with. I felt fear and anger and sadness for all the unfairness Letitia faced in her life. I rejoiced when she discovered true friendship with neighbors with whom they traveled to Oregon. I felt the pain she went through when people turned their backs on her because of her skin color, and after Davey died. I could understand Davey's wanderlust, and yet felt Tish's frustration when he left her and their children a couple months at a time when it hit him. I could feel justified anger and frustration with Tish in her fight to keep her home after Davey had passed on. I was completely wrapped up in the story. Those are the signs of a good storyteller.
I read a lot of historical fiction works, and yet there were several facts revealed in this book I had never heard before--some things about living in Missouri in that time period, some new information about the trip to Oregon over the mountains and through dangerous territory, and definitely about Oregon itself during its formation years. One way the author shares tidbits of history and viewpoints is through the narration. But what stood out most to me was how the author shared perspectives through her characters' thoughts. I admire how the author accomplished this; she even pushed the envelope a bit using this method. By sharing a person's point of view about the harsh realities they faced, the author presented conflict and resolution while still remaining within the confines of compassionate Christian fiction.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
In reading A Light in the Wilderness, I was awestruck by how incredibly brave women like Letitia, Nancy, and Betsy were. Letitia for facing down daily racism and prejudice; Nancy, for giving up the home she loves for the unknown; and Betsy, for also facing prejudice and being forced to move from her own home. Stories like these inspire people to overcome their own personal obstacles and move forward, even while their knees are shaking a little in fear. Courage doesn't mean fear is absent - it is making that decision to move in spite of the fear. And we don't have to face that fear alone! God, who is ever faithful, promises to never leave us or forsake us. What a beautiful promise!
Wonderfully written, A Light in the Wilderness is a story readers will not easily forget.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Three very different women. One dangerous journey. And a future that seems just out of reach.
A Light in the Wilderness is a gripping story, one that captivated me from the very beginning! Based on a true story, Jane Kirkpatrick breathes life into her characters and beckons the reader into their world. I loved the historical depth of the story and the palpable emotions of the characters. A Light in the Wilderness is a very compelling story and a recommended read for fans of historical fiction!
I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. All thoughts expressed are my own and no monetary compensation was received.
The story of Letitia Carson is a fictional characterization of a freed slave whose story is beautifully told in rich detail. Her life story is heartrending, but her strength and faith kept her moving forward through hard times and overwhelming obstacles. Her common law husband, Davey Carson, was supportive and yet not available to her in times of need. Belittled and harassed by those she traveled with from Missouri to Oregon, Letitia kept to herself and her common law husband. During their journey she found friendship through one other woman whose husband was a doctor. A midwife, Letitia had assisted Nancy Hawkins in childbirth, and their friendship became a strong bond as they met from time to time throughout their lengthy journey to the great northwest. Once she reached her destination she met Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian who became a great support to her, and taught her much about her surroundings.
Jane Kirkpatrick has created a spirit-moving portrayal of Letitia, and the trials she suffered because of the color of her skin. This book of realistic fiction is filled with great detailing and believable representations of a woman of color at a time in our nation's history when people of color were looked upon as property, not as human beings. It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research in producing this compelling and undiluted narrative of the strengths of the women who held one another up through great stress and hardship. I highly recommend this powerful book! I intend to read more of Jane Kirkpatrick's writing!
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Book Fun through The Book Club Network's For Readers Only program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.