In 1851 life at the Bethel Colony in Missouri was truly communal. All the money that was earned was used by everyone. Food was harvested and shared by the entire community. No one lacked for food, shelter, or clothing. But seventeen year old Emma Wagner was not happy with the whole situation. She wanted to stand out; she didn't want to look and acts like everyone else. She wanted to be an individual. It drove her crazy that woman's opinion weren't valued because she had a lot to say. The colony's leader Father Keil led their religious group with a controlling hand. After Emma married 37 year old Christian Giesy, they and a group of others from the colony headed from Missouri to Oregon in search of a place to start a new colony. This is the story of Emma following her heart, her love, and God to a new life that she never expected she would be living.
At the end of the book the author listed the historical facts that were used for creation of this work of historical fiction. She had a lot of facts to use and she made them work well in the story. The one thing that she made up was the way Emma Wagner was and how she reacted. She did a great job of making her headstrong and feisty but still very likable. This book shows the hardships early Americans had trying to find a place to live, build a house, and also be able to provide food. It was interesting learning about the Bethel Colony. I enjoyed this book from the beginning to the end.
This is the first book in Jane Kirkpatrick's Change and Cherish Historical Series. You can read an excerpt here. Emma of Aurora: The Complete Change and Cherish Trilogy includes all three books in the series, which are: A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm, and A Mending at the Edge.
I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.
I thought this was a wonderful book - good historical content. I was especially interested since I grew up in Oregon and know Portland and Aurora. I am looking forward to reading the other two in this series.
A Clearing in the Wild is a novel written by Jane Kirkpatrick. Based on a true story, it is about a teenage girl named Emma Wagner who is part of a religious community that is based in Bethel, Missouri in the 1850s. Emma is independent and questions some of the ways of the community and the rules that Wilhelm the community leader has made. She ends up marrying the man of her dreams (Christian) against the wishes of Wilhelm. Christian is a scout leader and Wilhelm feels that Emma will keep Christian from committing fully to his job. Eventually Emma is given permission by Wilhelm to go with her husband Christian to Oregon to establish a new community. Through various trials that Emma experiences in Oregon, she grows in her faith and becomes closer to her husband.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this book especially knowing that it was based on a true story. The author did a great job of blending what she knew about the real-life Emma and events with fictional events. There is also an interview with the author at the end of the book where she gives information about the real-life characters the book is based on. A Clearing in the Wild is the first book in the Change and Cherish Historical Series. I am looking forward to reading the next book and following Emma's adventures.
Kirkpatrick is a master of historical fiction. What is especially great about her novels is that they are based on true stories.
During the mid-nineteenth century, a scouting group from a religious sect of German descent left Bethel, Missouri and headed west to find a new and more remote location for their utopian religious community. Among them was one woman, Emma Giesy, wife of the leader of the group. Feeling very suppressed by the dictatorial leader of the community in Bethel, Emma managed to get herself included in the scouting party. They initially headed to the Washington Territory. But when the rest of the community arrived, there was disagreement and they eventually ended up in the Willapa Valley in the Oregon Territory.
Kirkpatrick combines actual historical records with fictional events and dialog to give us a good sense of what life was like in the religious community and in the wild Oregon Territory. They certainly experienced hardships that had to be endured for them to survive. Of central interest is the place of women in that era. Emma rebelled against the accepted place. She desired a community where there was more equality between men and women. She was a strong woman but her exhibiting that strength came at a price for the community.
There are many issues discussed in this novel and the Discussion Questions included help make this a good choice for reading groups. There can be lively discussion about the place of women in the church and ministry and about how much authority a religious leader should have and if he should be followed without question.
I think you will find this historical novel well written and very interesting. Not only will you get a sense of pioneering in the mid-nineteenth century but also the characteristics of the religious communities that were formed during this era.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick opens on Christmas Day, 1851, in the colony of Bethel, Missouri, an isolated community of German immigrants dedicated to their faith where all wealth was common wealth so that no one would have to be concerned about the future. They were historically known as Harmonists who tried to achieve Christian perfection beginning their colony in Pennsylvania, then moving to New Harmony Indiana, Missouri, and then west.
This life is all seventeen year old Emma remembers but yet she longs for more and begins to question the ways of the teaching of their leader, Father Wilhelm Keil. While the new thoughts within the colony are to remain single so that one can devote their time to the Lord, Emma hopes this will be her last Christmas as a single woman and she can't seem to escape the thoughts of independence and being able to speak her mind and make her own decisions, all characteristics considered undesirable for Bethel women. When the grumblings of potential war between the North and the South begin to make their way into the Bethel community, a decision must be made as to whether or not the colony can remain in Bethel or must move farther west to escape being drawn into the war that seems inevitable.
Typically, Jane Kirkpatrick takes a real historical character and weaves a believable story about their lives, filling in with fictional details that history books and biographys don't tell. She has done the same with the colony of Bethel, MO. Ms. Kirkpatrick has proven to be an author who thoroughly researches the time period she is representing and A Clearing in the Wild is no exception. I very much appreciate her attention to detail and accuracy even though it does sometimes bog down the story a bit. In reading, I tend to be more of a "let's get the story moving and let my imagination fill in some of the details" kind of reader. This isn't Ms. Kirkpatrick's style but I love historical fiction so enjoy her books as well even if they aren't ones that "grab" me.
I did receivet shi book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way obligated to leave a positive review.