In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.
The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.
But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.
When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.
Amy Harmon keeps astounding me with the amount of research and effort she puts into every book. From the Irish history to now the wild west, she makes sure to leave no stone unturned in making her stories authentic. There’s also a tone of sincerity all her writing.
At the very beginning on her author’s note, she makes it clear that the characters in this story are real, and people she has a real connection with. But it was the prologue that kind of drew me in immediately. And even though the pacing of the first half was a little slower than my liking, the anticipation of what was to come kept me keen.
Naomi May is a young widow traveling with her big family through the Overland trail. John Lowry is a man that has never felt like he belonged anywhere because of his half-pawnee roots. But when he meets Naomi, he finally feels that sense of belonging. Their courtship starts off as measured because of his reluctance. But there are external challenges too – danger, diseases death and loss. But these things only work to bring them closer.
It was the second half, the point onward after the prologue that made the story for me. Amy Harmon has a way of writing tragedy in a way that it does not turn into melodrama. Her writing has a thoughtful way of focusing more on the courage of the characters with which they deal with tragedy. In this book also, Naomi’s courage wrenched my heart in a way that perhaps her breaking down wouldn’t. The characters are all put in an impossible situation in the end and the resolution also seems impossible
Almost all the books by this author have magical realism to it. And while that may turn some readers off, I feel that it helps me understand the people in her books better.
It’s almost surreal in this day and age to read about the struggle people went through in traveling from one state to another in search for better lives. Then there is the struggle of the man who is half-pawnee and has a hard time being in peace with himself. It’s surreal that even though the times have changed, the world has not. There are still refugees who risk their lives every day for a better life. There are still minorities who live their lives feeling that they don’t belong fully.
And this right here – the ability of this book to make me think so deeply – makes me rate it 5 stars.