JUNIATA VALLEY by Virginia C. Cassel


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A responsible and unexpectedly moving first novel concerning the tribulations of a cluster of frontier families in western Pennsylvania during the French and Indian wars. These are mainly farming families, barely defended from Indian attack by a shaky handful of forts (due in part to the reluctance of the Quaker-dominated Assembly to allot monies for warfare). So Indian raids result in killings and captures. Among the captives: feisty Mary Ann Eldridge, wife of hot-tempered George, who is kindly treated by her Shawnee captors once she's run the gauntlet and defends herself with a frying pan; courageous young Silas Enyard (Mary Ann's adoring, silent admirer), who is made a blood brother to the Delaware tribe but grieves for his dead father and sister; and lovely, educated Susannah Graves, wife of nice but uninspiring John, who is parted from her child Rachel but later will escape (dressed as a boy) from the Mingo Indians. Eventually the remnants of families will gather at Fort Carlisle and close ranks--as men join the militia and love affairs flourish in the harsh climate of anxiety and loss: impetuous Lucinda Abbott, whose headlong sexual advances cause the execution of a deserting soldier, drifts into prostitution but is redeemed by aristocratic English journalist Geoffrey (who loves and loses the widow Susannah); and other cheerful pairings will come about as captives are returned after the battle for Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh). With a ripe sense of time and place (pungent earth, wigwams in low-lying mist), as well as convincing glimpses of outpost strategy and warfare--a quiet, unpretentious tribute to the strength and simple decency which weathered the most punishing times.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Viking