Fleshed out from historical accounts and records, this is a strong novelization of a true woman-versus-nature ordeal. In 1755 Mary Draper Ingles, 23, pregnant mother of two, is kidnapped by Shawnees following their massacre of Mary's West Virginia settlement--a vivid bloodletting. She, her two sons, and sister-in-law Bettie are taken downstream on Sinking Creek--as Mary gives birth to a daughter, then next morning must ride horseback or be slaughtered. (Almost bleeding to death, she nonetheless keeps a cheerful face for the Indians, who respect strength.) They spend 17 days at a salt lick, killing and salting game for winter, then push on to the great O-y-o (Ohio) River and follow that until reaching the Shawnee village--where prisoners are stripped and made to run a gauntlet of whippers before being adopted by Indian families. Mary has a sewing basket and goes into shirtmaking for profit. But when the Shawnee chief asks for her hand, she turns him down; so he sells her to a pair of French traders to work in their store, keeping her sons to raise as braves. And when the traders take Mary and old Dutch woman Ghetel to a second lick to collect salt, Mary decides to abandon her baby to a squaw and strike out for home with Ghetel. They sneak off and endure ever greater starvation for 43 days as they trek about 600 miles, following the rivers back to Mary's settlement. . . while her husband rides into the Cherokee nation and tries to effect her ransom. The two women fail at fishing and hunting, are skin and bone in the fruitless fall, vomiting plant fibers, chewing a rotten doe's head or acorns and grubs. Then it's sleet, wolves, and fording deep streams. Ghetel becomes demented and hunts Mary to eat her. And finally: a crawl on skeletal hands and knees straight up a snowy stone 500-foot bank. . . and more banks beyond. More American Heritage than commercial romance, unusually convincing and often quite moving.