A Light in the Wilderness (2014)
Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.
Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.
Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. And she will soon have another person to care for.
As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.
Praise for Jane Kirkpatrick's A Light in the Wilderness
Kirkpatrick (The Daughter’s Walk) exercises her considerable gift for making history come alive in this real-life tale of a freed slave who travels across the country to Oregon Territory in the late 1840s. Kirkpatrick draws an indelible and intriguing portrait of Letitia Carson, an African-American woman who obtains her freedom and then determinedly makes her own way in a unsympathetic society. Among her allies are her common-law husband Davey, an Irish immigrant; Nancy Hawkins, a white woman whose family is also headed to Oregon; and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian whose separate story in Oregon Territory eventually converges with Letitia’s life. Letitia is fully imagined, and Kirkpatrick skillfully relates Letitia’s thoughts, cementing a bond of empathy between character and reader. Betsy is underdeveloped in comparison to many of the other secondary characters. But, on the whole, Kirkpatrick’s historical homework is thorough, and her realization of a little-known African-American pioneer is persuasive and poignant. - Publisher's Weekly
"Thank you for telling our story. I'm not sure how you got inside the skin of a black woman, but you did. I loved this book!" - Gwen Carr of Oregon Black Pioneers.
"I finished A Light in the Wilderness last evening and found it a captivating read. Excellent work! Jane writes with great sensitivity to the feelings of Letitia Carson and other characters, and to the environment in which they lived and traveled. Her extensive research into the life of the Carsons is reflected in the depth of her writing. Several passages were especially moving to me "Findin' time like it was lost. I looked in nooks and crannies trying to find more time for us...minutes driftin' like snowflakes meetin' on the taste buds." Very nice writing.
- R. Gregory Nokes, author of Oregon book Award Finalist Breaking Chains, Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory.
"I just finished the book a few minutes ago, and I can't dismiss the emotion that sharing Letitia's life has brought to me. "Thank you" hardly seems enough to say to you for letting me spend the last few days immersed in the heart and soul of Letitia Carson. You have an amazing knack for putting flesh on the bones of historical people." - Jean Hendrickson, Asotin, Washington. A fiction reader.
* The image in the rotation above and noted with an asterisk (*) is by Alison Saar, titled Washtub Blues, 2000, and is a color woodcut 30 x 22 in. (76.2 x 55.9 cm) Copyright Alison Saar, and used by courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA