WaterBrook Press Reader’s Guide
for All Together in One Place by Jane Kirkpatrick
“One of the incidents that made a profound impression upon the minds of all was the meeting with eleven wagons returning, and not a man left in the entire train. All the men had died and had been buried on the way, and the women and children were returning to their homes alone from a point well up on the Plate, below Fort Laramie. The difficulties of the return trip were multiplied on account of the throng moving westward. How those women succeeded in their attempt, or what became of them, we never knew.”
--Ezra Meeker recalling an incident on his first journey west on the Oregon Trail in 1852.
As with many of us, Mazy Bacon thought she yearned for the things that gave her nurture: her home and garden, her dog, the love and comfort of her husband, the visits of her mother. She did not like surprises or change and told her husband so. She liked a predictable life and thought that she controlled it. “Things’re not always what they seem,” her husband said one evening in early 1850 and thus began this young woman’s journey to the wilderness places of her life - the wilderness of landscape, relationship and the yearnings of her soul.
ALL TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE is a novel, set in 1852, about eleven wagons of women seeking the nurture of home and facing change. But more it is a story of the wilderness places of our lives today and the discovery of what we’re given-if we will seek it-to see us through. Writer Terry Tempest Williams reminds us that “to step into wilderness is to court risk.” We are warned in life to be prepared before we step where few have gone before. But sometimes we are forced to enter the wilderness. Death, divorce, loneliness and betrayal announce the wilderness of relationship. A move, an illness or an accident can separate us from familiar landscapes, friends and even ourselves, piercing us in places we fight so hard to stay away from. The wilderness of spirit can challenge, too, revealing both fears and fragile places in our faith that trouble us and taking us deep into uncertainty.
But wrapped within the wilderness places, treasure sparkles-if we believe, persevere, and reach beyond, if we will trust the Psalmist’s words, “The Lord knows my lot. He makes my boundaries fall on pleasant places.” To find those pleasant places of our lives, no matter where we are, we’re asked to stretch, to risk and trust and to admit that we have entered wilderness, that life as we once knew it and believed that we controlled, has ended. With that admission, we can court commitment not just risk, and with faith and friends, move forward toward abundance we otherwise would never known was there.