During the French and Indian War, Native Americans capture two sisters, 12-year-old Barbara and 9-year-old Regina, from their frontier Pennsylvania farm.
The sisters are separated within days of being taken captive. The third-person narration follows Barbara: her long overland journey, then her life as a captive and eventually, an almost fully accepted member of the Allegheny tribe. Having never given up hope, after three years, Barbara and three other teens flee, embarking on a perilous 200-mile-long escape across the Ohio River and back to the safety of Fort Pitt. From the outset, this tale reads almost as a parable, the introduction intoning, "a handful of families came to dwell there. They lived happily in harmony both with God and man—even with the Indians." Because of its relative brevity and the sometimes distancing didacticism of the narrative, the full impact of Barbara's trials is often blunted. Although Native Americans are sometimes sympathetically depicted, they never become much more than pidgin-speaking cardboard characters. A final moral/religious lesson in the form of Barbara’s later reaction to a good-hearted potential suitor seems superfluous. I Am Regina (1991) tells the same story, more sympathetically.
A potentially fascinating story of the survival of a powerful, sustaining human spirit is too often bogged down by an intrusively preachy narrative voice that never trusts readers to draw their own appropriate conclusions. (Historical fiction. 11-16)