AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY by Donna Gruber Adair


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A captivating generational tale of one family’s pioneering travels during America’s 19th-century westward expansion.

Based on the adventures of the real-life ancestors of Adair’s husband, the story begins in 1805 with a wagon train traversing dangerous mountain terrain from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to Ohio in search of a plentiful land. Adair masterfully weaves pivotal events of the 1800s such as slavery, Bleeding Kansas and the Pike's Peak gold rush into the lives of the Adair family as they venture from Virginia to Ohio, Indiana and Kansas. Adair, a former English teacher, has crafted a perfect mix of action, tragedy and romance. Main character Ben Adair’s courtship of his betrothed Ann is awkward and endearing. Adair doesn’t shy away from the graphic brutality of Native American war parties on the Santa Fe Trail and bloody carnage on the battlefields of Shiloh, Bull Run and Gettysburg. The perils of farming and the unrefined wilderness are both enticing and dangerous as the Adairs encounter fires, locusts and crop-eating squirrels. Although they are a tight-knit bunch, the extended family find themselves on opposing sides of critical issues of slavery, religion and the Civil War. Adding extra tension is Ben’s involvement in the Underground Railroad, which results in tragic consequences. The underlying theme throughout is the hope of a promised land. For settlers it’s the fertile, uncultivated soil of new territories. For the runaway slaves, it’s the freedom of the North, and for Confederates it’s the Dixie way of life. At times it’s tough to keep track of relations in the ever-expanding Adair clan, but the story remains centered around Ben as he matures from a brave 9-year-old to the upstanding patriarch of the Family.

With 2011 marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, Adair’s novel is a fitting, rousing tribute to the courage of ordinary families who made extraordinary sacrifices.


Pub Date: June 17th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1463517434
Page count: 283pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2011


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