Date: August 2014
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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.
A Light in the Wilderness is a work of fiction based on the African American woman Letitia Carson who lived in the nineteenth century. It is a very inspiring story and left me in awe of women who lived at that time firstly, and then Letitia herself, Black African in a time where many were still slaves and women did not have that many rights.
Jane Kirkpatrick with the help of the research of others has taken the facts of Letitia and asked herself what may have been to put flesh and blood on Letitia, to explore her possible feelings and motives. The fictitious Letitia is a woman of courage and kindness, a woman who faced many difficulties that a lesser woman would have turned up her tail and let outer circumstances dictate her life. I suspect the actual Letitia must have been something like her.
Her husband Davey is an interesting character, a mixture of good and not so good, he is portrayed as basically a kind individual but at times he appeared a little dense and weak.
The friendships that develop in this book are significant among the three women - Letitia, Nancy a woman she meets as they are beginning the long trail west and Betsy the native American of the Kalapuya. They provide kinship, support and care for each other.
Jane Kirkpatrick has many details of the journey of the wagon train to the West which helps the reader be there and picture a little of what it was like. You had to be tough and you had to have the support of others.
If you like books that speak of the empowerment of women, the search for justice and freedom and the wonderful kinship of good men and women, in an historical setting of the early west then I highly recommend this book.
You can read a little more about this book on Jane Kirkpatrick's website and there is also a map that shows the journey Letitia and Davey took across the country to Oregon.