WILDERNESS PLOTS: Tales About the Settlement of the American Land by Scott R. Sanders

WILDERNESS PLOTS: Tales About the Settlement of the American Land

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Unsatisfying snippets--50 of them, each two or three pages long, from the history of the Ohio Valley, 1781-1861. (""When, in my readings, I turned up a character whose exploits or sufferings touched me, I wrote a narrative about him or her."") At best, these roughly chronological ""tales"" are intriguing anecdotes with a tiny jot of resonance: an Indian prisoner, charged with horse thieving, exchanged for a ""good dressed beef"" from the Indians--which turned out to be (non-fatally) poisoned; grim little stories of hunger, freezing-to-death, going-to-war; mildly inspirational chronicles of determined pioneers selling salt, nursing neighbors, shearing sheep. More often, however, these mini-chapters read like stray paragraphs from an informal history book--with tired materials (mistreatment of Indians, hunting animals to extinction) as well as more surprising sidelights: a glimpse into a debtors' prison circa 1800; a few ironic court cases; a description of the Great Western Public Advertiser and Family Visitor, an 1820s newspaper that ""publicized more threats to the Republic than most people could worry about in a lifetime. . . . As the conspiracies became more involved, so did the editor's sentences."" Aside from a few nicely delivered curiosities, then: rather flat, mostly unshaped sketches from pioneer life--pleasant bedside reading for early-American-history buffs, perhaps, but otherwise of minimal interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow