Friday, May 10, 2013

Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick is a master of historical fiction. What is especially great about her
novels is that they are based on true stories.

During the mid-nineteenth century, a scouting group from a religious sect of German descent left Bethel, Missouri and headed west to find a new and more remote location for their utopian religious community. Among them was one woman, Emma Giesy, wife of the leader of the group. Feeling very suppressed by the dictatorial leader of the community in Bethel, Emma managed to get herself included in the scouting party. They initially headed to the Washington Territory. But when the rest of the community arrived, there was disagreement and they eventually ended up in the Willapa Valley in the Oregon Territory.

Kirkpatrick combines actual historical records with fictional events and dialog to give us a good sense of what life was like in the religious community and in the wild Oregon Territory. They certainly experienced hardships that had to be endured for them to survive. Of central interest is the place of women in that era. Emma rebelled against the accepted place. She desired a community where there was more equality between men and women. She was a strong woman but her exhibiting that strength came at a price for the community.

There are many issues discussed in this novel and the Discussion Questions included help make this a good choice for reading groups. There can be lively discussion about the place of women in the church and ministry and about how much authority a religious leader should have and if he should be followed without question.

I think you will find this historical novel well written and very interesting. Not only will you get a sense of pioneering in the mid-nineteenth century but also the characteristics of the religious communities that were formed during this era.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the award-winning, best-selling author of two nonfiction books and eleven novels. She is a licensed clinical social worker as well as an inspirational retreat leader and speaker. She and her husband live on 160 acres in eastern Oregon. Find out more at

WaterBrook Press, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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