Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick ~ review

The Daughter's Walk: A Novel
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A mother's tragedy, a daughter's desire and the 7000 mile journey that changed their lives.
In 1896 Norwegian American Helga Estby accepted a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months in an effort to earn $10,000. Bringing along her nineteen year-old daughter Clara, the two made their way on the 3500-mile trek by following the railroad tracks and motivated by the money they needed to save the family farm. After returning home to the Estby farm more than a year later, Clara chose to walk on alone by leaving the family and changing her name. Her decisions initiated a more than 20-year separation from the only life she had known.
Historical fiction writer Jane Kirkpatrick picks up where the fact of the Estbys’ walk leaves off to explore Clara's continued journey. What motivated Clara to take such a risk in an era when many women struggled with the issues of rights and independence? And what personal revelations brought Clara to the end of her lonely road? The Daughter's Walk weaves personal history and fiction together to invite readers to consider their own journeys and family separations, to help determine what exile and forgiveness are truly about.
“Kirkpatrick has done impeccable homework, and what she recreates and what she imagines are wonderfully seamless. Readers see the times, the motives, the relationships that produce a chain of decisions and actions, all rendered with understatement. Kirkpatrick is a master at using fiction to illuminate history’s truths. This beautiful and compelling work of historical fiction deserves the widest possible audience.”

My take on this book:
In "The Daughter's Walk" the year is 1896 and the Etsby family farm is about to go into foreclosure. So when Helga Etsby is offered a challenge in which she will receive  ten thousand dollars from the fashion industry if she will walk 3500 miles from Spokane Washington to New York City within seven months she decides to accept, and she takes her eighteen year old daughter Clara with her. There are several rules they must follow, first they must wear the new reform dress, with hems above their ankles, leggings, and waistlines without corsets, they could only start out with five dollars, earning what they needed as they went, they could accept free meals and lodging but couldn't beg.They also had to walk the entire way, accepting no rides from anyone. The walk is only a part of the story, with the rest of the book allowing us to follow Clara, and how her life turns out.

I love reading historical fiction, and was excited to learn that this book was based on actual facts and people. I found it quite helpful that the author provided a cast of characters list at the beginning of the story that actually allows us to know who the real/fictional characters were. While the trek across country was interesting,it didn't seem quite as adventurous as I thought it might be. For me the story really took off once the ladies returned home, because of the journey the ladies lives were changed forever. Before Helga went on the trek she seemed to be a strong woman, but upon returning to the farm she is the opposite, its like she let the journey beat or defeat her. Clara decided to leave the family to make it on her own, she changes her name and finds a way to go to business school.
Even though this story didn't captivate me from the first pages, overall I enjoyed it because I learned about an interesting event that happened in history.

rating 3.5/5

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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