Review: A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

My first introduction to Jane Kirkpatrick was through a short story, “Saving Grace”. Because of the content of the story, I wasn’t sure what to think. I did know one thing, the subject of the short story was a tough one, and it was based on a “clinic” that had actually existed. Because of the difficult subject matter, I appreciated her writing as an author. My opinion was that she wouldn’t stray away from a challenge. A Light in the Wilderness is the first novel I have read by her. I was drawn to it from the synopsis. The novel weaves together the stories of three women: a freed slave, a Kalapuya Indian, and a woman traveling the Oregon Trail. The back doesn’t explain much about how these three lives intersect, but I was intrigued. After all, all three of these women are set up to endure many struggles.

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**I received a free copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review**

I don’t normally post book trailers on my blog. But the trailer for this books just captured the essence of the story so well! Not to mention the narration of the video completely captured how I heard Letitia’s voice in my mind.

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read–as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him. Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere–even when the trek exacts a terrible cost. Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for. As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers’ hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

Some of the best historical fiction books are those based on true stories. The author’s note at the end of this amazing and astonishing story impressed me. Jane Kirkpatrick surely knows how to tell a story and stick with the facts!

Letitia Carson is clearly the main character in this novel. Her story is wrought with struggles and the unknown. To be a black woman on the Oregon Trail would have been tough enough, but to be married to a white man surely made it even more difficult. Loneliness was a constant companion and prejudice a shadow.

Nancy Hawkin’s story seems to follow a typical story of women on the Oregon Trail. From heartbreaking moments to finding joy when you can, her story gives us a glimpse into everyday life for the period.

Betsy’s story is the least fleshed out. In fact I wish there was more to read from her. Her narratives portray the ways in which the Native American culture was slowly disappearing, without much being able to be done about.

The lives of these three women eventually become tangled together in a novel that shows what friendship truly looks like. It takes a hard look at what justice means. Letitia Carson dealt with a lot in her life, and I was glad to read a novel that brought her to life.

I would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels based around a real person or event?


For more on the author or this book, please check out the following links:

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2 thoughts on “Review: A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

  1. Funny you should mention the Author’s Note. I’ll admit that sometimes I only skim over those notes if they’re more than a page long, but this one I actually read just like the rest of the novel. I was so intrigued by Letitia’s story!


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