Tag: #AmericanWest

Book Review: “Finding the Way: From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead” by Alfred Wellnitz

Book Review: “Finding the Way: From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead” by Alfred Wellnitz

This is a powerful story of courage, perseverance, and good ole hard work. Karl is a young man, recently released from the Prussian army after fighting in the Franco-Prussian War. He has decided that he wants to follow some of his buddies and immigrate to America, where he can build a homestead and no longer be a peasant for a nobleman. With his family’s blessing he sets off on a journey he could never have imagined. He travels by ship to Baltimore where his money is stolen before he even gets through immigration. Karl meets up with Heinrich, another young Prussian who he met on the boat, and together they set off to make something of themselves. With a little help from fellow Germans they manage to find a place to live and jobs. After saving up some money they are ready to head west. They will make stops in Chicago, working at a meat-packing plant, and Deadwood, SD, running a saloon, before Karl can finally settle on his homestead.

The author obviously did a lot of research about life in 1800’s America, as the descriptions of the various places our heroes find themselves in put the reader right in there with them. The story is inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members when they immigrated, which also lends authenticity to the story. I found Karl’s story to be quite inspiring. Even though he has his money stolen, then gets conned out of more, he never lets his dream fade. He has to take on some pretty disgusting jobs in the process but continues to keep his “eye on the prize”. This would be a good book for history buffs and also for anyone he needs a little inspiration to keep going. I think it’s important to read this type of story so that we can be reminded of the kind of spirit that made this country so great in the first place. This book would also be appropriate for teenagers on up. I’m giving “Finding the Way” a definite thumbs-up.

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Bird

Book Review: “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains” by Isabella Bird

I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to! This is the collection of letters which Isabella wrote to her sister about her travels through the Rocky Mountains in the 1870’s. Isabella is travelling on her own; sometimes with companions she picks up along the way. She has a beautiful gift for describing what she sees and experiences along the way. Her reason for the journey is to see Estes Park. She travels from San Francisco to Colorado and then into the mountains. She tells her sister about all the people she encounters, a very motley collection of humanity. People that have been sent to the mountains by their doctors back East in an attempt to improve their health. People who are building ranches and farms and communities out of nothing. She meets desperadoes and dandies, devoted wives and their hardworking husbands, law-breakers and those trying to create law and order where none exists. Isabella gets to try her hand at herding cattle, climbing mountain peaks, slogging through blizzards, fording streams and rivers. It seems like she has the opportunity to experience every hardship the west has to offer but also all the beauty and glory that await in the Rocky Mountains.

This book was first published in the 1870’s but don’t let that put you off. If you enjoy stories of the Old West or travel books I think you will find this book worth reading. Isabella’s writing style is very approachable and not stuffy, as some books from the 19th century feel to today’s reader. Try something different today and pick up “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains”.

Happy Reading!

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“Donners of the Dead” by Karina Halle

“Donners of the Dead” by Karina Halle

There is an author’s note at the beginning of this book which explains what the book is about, but even though I read it I apparently didn’t really pay attention to what it said. Then I get a few chapters in and realized there are zombies in the story. Now I don’t usually go for zombie type stories and I almost decided to stop reading it. Then I thought, “Well, I’m really enjoying the story and there’s a lot of elements that don’t involve the zombies.” So I decided to keep reading and I’m so glad I did. Karina Halle tells a wonderful story.

The backdrop of this story is the ill-fated Donner party that was trapped over the winter in the Sierra Nevadas. The narrative centers on a teenage Eve, who is living with her aunt, uncle, mother and cousin, after the death of her father. Her mother has not spoken since her husband’s death. Eve is the daughter of a white mother and an Indian father, and her uncle hates her for it. He relegates her to the barn and treats her not as a niece but, at best as a ranch worker, and at worst as a burden on his life. Eve’s father was a well-known tracker and guide, and Eve learned many of his skills before he died. When a group of men ride into the town needing a guide they are told that Eve is the best person in the area. Their story is that the uncle of one of the men went into the Sierra Nevadas as part of a group searching for what happened to the Donner party, but he never returned, and now they want to find him. But is there another motive?

Eve’s uncle agrees to let her go, he sees nothing but dollar signs, but her aunt insists that she be accompanied by a fellow ranch-hand, Avery, and another local girl, Donna, to function as chaperone. The group sets off into the mountains. On the first day they encounter a couple of Indians who try to warn them of danger in the mountains, but since they don’t speak English the men disregard the warning. Not too long after that they have their first encounter with the strange creatures that live there. One of the men in the group, Jake, seems to take an instant dislike to Eve, and she to him. But will their opinions of each other change as they continue to encounter the dangerous creatures?

As I said earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story line was clever and original, and the author’s style made for an easy but exciting read. The characters, especially Eve, Jake, Avery, and Donna, were well thought out and well written. The author pulled me into the drama right away and kept me there until the last page. Some of the zombie scenes were graphic in nature, but there was so much more to the story than just blood and gore that it didn’t feel overwhelming. I would love to see more stories with these characters. I would highly recommend this book. It’s got adventure, twists and turns, and a bit of romance too. I think just about anybody could find something to like here.

Happy Reading!

Donners of the Dead from Amazon

 

“Wife No. 19” by Ann Eliza Young

“Wife No. 19” by Ann Eliza Young

Wife No. 19 was originally published in 1875. Ann Eliza Young was Brigham Young’s 19th wife. The book is an expose of Mormonism and the life of bondage that the practice of polygamy forced women to endure.

I thought this book would be an interesting read because polygamy has, in recent years, become a topic open for discussion. On one hand there are TV shows like “Sister Wives” portraying polygamy as a valid lifestyle. On the other hand we have stories of Warren Jeffs and his absolute dictatorship over women’s lives. I’m not here to take a stand on one side or the other but I did find this book fascinating as a historical document. U.S. history classes don’t often have much to say about the Mormons and the settlement of Utah, and Ann Eliza Young’s retelling is quite detailed and comprehensive. She does spend a lot of time detailing some of Brigham Young’s schemes to benefit himself financially on the labor of his followers, but you can sense how these people often had no choice but to go along with Brigham’s schemes because they were so beholden to him.

I really enjoyed the book. Ann Eliza knows how to tell a story and I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of her account of events. It did however bother me some that in places she becomes rather vitriolic and I wondered if there might be some exaggeration. I find it hard to believe, sitting here in the 21st century that people could be so completely deceived. But these events took place in the 19th century and many of the Mormon followers had little or no education. In fact, Brigham Young opposed all efforts to introduce public education in Mormon communities because he said that if the children were educated they would not be good workers.

If you love your history in a narrative form, like I do, than I think you will really enjoy this book. Ann Eliza Young was able to eventually leave the Mormon Church with her 2 children. She spent many years as a public speaker, detailing for the general public the truth of the Mormon beliefs and lifestyle. So pick up a copy of this book and take a walk down history lane. Wife No. 19 (Paperback). This book is available on Amazon.

“Eel River Rising” by Laura Reasoner Jones

“Eel River Rising” by Laura Reasoner Jones

A wonderful journey through one woman’s life. Laura Reasoner Jones has put together the life of her great-grandmother, Florence Reasoner, through the eyes of those who knew her best. The story is told primarily through correspondence to Flora.

She lived through a pivotal period of American history, from the Civil War to the Great Depression. When her life begins women have very few rights and are dependent on men for their support but she lives to see women gain the right to vote and control their own money and property.

Flora had wanted to be a doctor like her father but she was denied the opportunity to go to college. After her marriage she sets up and operates, in complete secrecy, a clinic for the poor of her city. She teaches English to the immigrants, provides medical services, and instructs mothers in the art of parenting. She is also a worker for the women’s right to vote group in her area. Near the end of her life she struggles with the thought that she really didn’t do anything with her life. But those around her saw her as a key person in their lives, providing them with encouragement in their own endeavors and an inspiration to continue their education and work to improve their own communities.

I found this story to be both educational and inspiring. Sometimes we take for granted the rights that we now possess and this story really opened my eyes to just how tough the fight to get those rights was. I hope you will also enjoy this book and never forget those who came before us and the work they did.

Eel River Rising

“Little Miss Sure Shot” by Jeffrey Marshall

“Little Miss Sure Shot” by Jeffrey Marshall

What a charming and delightful account of Annie Oakley’s life! I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to really get a feel for one of the icons of the American West. Annie Oakley was someone I had heard of and knew she was famous for her marksmanship but I had never heard the story of her life before. Being a bit of a history buff I was very excited to read this book and learn more and the author did not disappoint. Jeffrey Marshall grabs your interest from the beginning with a recounting of the period in her life when she was suing Hearst Corporation for libel and keeps you interested with his engaging writing style. He then relates the story of her life from the day she fired a gun for the first time until her death. He relays the events in her life that formed her into the star she would become. I especially enjoyed the way he was able to portray her scrappy but inquisitive personality and also that of her devoted husband. I was mesmerized by all the rich and powerful people this little lady was able to meet during her years with the Wild West Show and how she was able to step into a man’s world and not only play their game but beat them at it. Annie Oakley was a truly remarkable person who never let her fame get the better of her. I think she is still a shining example for girls even in the 21st century. If you enjoy American history or just like a good story you will really like reading this book. I highly recommend it.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/943447.Jeffrey_Marshall

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KDPJZE4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00KDPJZE4&linkCode=as2&tag=alinefromaboo-20&linkId=MVE4IARZ5DWCDP6K