Letitia, an African American woman in the Southern United States during the mid 1800’s, knows that the free papers given to her by a previous owner are priceless, but she realizes they do little to encourage whites to treat her as an equal. Yet Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant, is kind towards her and gradually earns her trust. She soon finds herself traveling west with him in hopes of building a new life, one in which she can make decisions for herself, perhaps even own a bit of property. While preparing for the journey, Letitia meets generous Nancy Hawkins, a white woman who looks beyond the color of Letitia’s skin to her strong and courageous soul. The two women bond together as they struggle to overcome a great many trials during their crossing west. Upon arriving, they befriend an elderly native Kalapuya Indian named Besty, who offers to help her new friends settle into the foreign land. All three women possess spirits that grow stronger in the face of adversity as they carve out lives in a land and a culture not accepting or forgiving towards some.
A Light in the Wilderness, according to the author’s detailed post note, is based on a true story. The extensive historical research collected during Ms. Kirkpatrick’s writing is a testament to the raw, authentic plotline. Although this book may be difficult to absorb due to some of its grim material, Ms. Kirkpatrick is to be applauded for telling a story that has trials but weaves in a message of hope and justice. The characters have true courage in the midst of real adversity and their inner strength shines through the pages more than once. A few plot points jump without proper explanation and a bit more detail may have allowed the story to flow better. However, the accounts and journey of these strong women is interesting and worth learning. This novel is recommended for those who enjoy history and wish to read how the events transpired without having the less satisfying portions of history glossed over or ignored.
I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.