by Kathryn Lasky ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 30, 1983
A plain, steady-going story of a wagon trek westward. It begins in Holly Springs, Pennsylvania, where Will Simon is shunned by his Amish community, forbidden access to his family and farm, for attending the funeral of a worldlier man. When his wife refuses to move with him to a less strict Amish community, Will decides to head West with the forty-niners; and his daughter Meribah, 14, sneaks off to join him. At ""St. Jo"" they join a wagon train headed for California and the story rolls along slowly as Meribah gets acquainted with its members. She becomes friendly with Serena Billings from Philadelphia, whose fancy speech (as well as her pretentious mother's) is full of French words and fashion. Mrs. Billings is all atwitter when Serena begins promenading with cultured, English-accented Mr. Wickham; but Serena's status with Mr. Wickham and the entire camp changes drastically when she is raped by the trouble-making Timm brothers, who then leave the train. Non-Amish, too, can shun cruelly, and with only Meribah and her father acknowledging the girl's existence, both Serena and her mother end up suicides. Then Will falls ill from a hand wound, their wagon breaks down (most likely sabotaged by the despicable Mr. Billings), and the wagon train votes to leave them behind. They are picked up by a pack train led by artist-mapmaker Goodnough (Meribah too has been making chalk drawings and maps along the way) but left behind once more. Goodnough elects to stay with them, and when Will dies he goes for help, but is delayed by an injury. When he returns Meribah has spent a winter alone in a cave and is now living with the Yahi. However, she chooses to leave both him and them to settle alone in the beautiful Valley of La Fontenelle, which had appealed to her on the way through. Lasky's characterization is far from subtle; her heroine's virtues, right-thinking, grit, and innate good taste are simply given; and, as in much historical fiction, the conversations tend to be stiff. However, Lasky renders the journey with sufficient contour and detail to reward those drawn to relive the historical experience.
Pub Date: May 30, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983
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