When I was invited by the publisher to read this book via an offer from NetGalley, I only hesitated for a second. I’m a sucker for historical fiction, set in the US in the 1800’s. Add a beautiful cover and an intriguing blurb and I am game.
That said, had this not been based on a true story, I probably would have stopped set it aside, rolling my eyes at the story of a freed slave marrying a white Irish immigrant and setting off with him across the country, where along the way they meet and commune with several other friendly whites who treat Leticia Carson like family. I know enough of my history to know that sympathetic friends would have been hard to come by.
Knowing that this novel was built on the backs of history made it worthwhile to push through, to read of the trek from Missouri to Oregon, and more importantly to explore the bonds of friendship and relationship where the law stood in the way. Davey and Leticia were married in words only… though she was free, he could never claim her as his wife. Several moments of foreshadowing ring Letitica’s fears about what could happen to her, their property, the life they’d built, should something happen to Davey.
The most irritating character throughout this book was Davey. I couldn’t figure out his motivation for doing the things he did, saying the things he said. He lied, he took shortcuts, he left his family in grave peril for the hollow promises of money and riches. I also didn’t understand his reluctance to make Leticia feel safe and secured. Surely she made her preferences known but he continually brushed her off as if her feelings weren’t important. With so many against their union lurking in the shadows, I felt Davey was irresponsible and cowardly when it came to caring for his wife. She risked so much to be with him.
This novel was well written, a bit slow in pacing and changing POV a few times, which I found refreshing. I was just thinking about the Grapes of Wrath the other day… this book reminds me a lot of that novel– a family venturing west for a better life, meeting joy and tragedy along the way. This was an excellent read.