The Daughter's Walk: A Novel

The Daughter's Walk: A Novel

4.2 52
by Jane Kirkpatrick

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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…  See more details below


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.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Chapter 1 - Decision

My name is Clara Estby, and for my own good, my mother whisked me away. Well, for the good of our family too, she insisted. Trying to stop her proved useless, because when an idea formed in her Norwegian head, she was like a rock crib anchoring a fence: strong and sturdy and unmovable once it’s set. I tried to tell her, I did. We all did. But in the end, we succumbed to her will and I suppose to her hopefulness, never dreaming it would lead where it did. I certainly never imagined I’d walk a path so distant from the place where I began.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, telling stories out of sequence, something a steady and careful woman like me should never do.

It began on an April morning in 1896, inside our Mica Creek farmhouse at the edge of the rolling Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State, when my mother informed me that we would be walking from Spokane to New York City. Walking, mind you, when there were perfectly good trains a person could take. Walking—thirty-five hundred miles to earn ten thousand dollars that would save our farm from foreclosure. Also to prove that a woman had stamina. Also to wear the new reform dress and show the freedom such garments offered busy, active, sturdy women.

The only merit I saw in the shorter skirts and absence of corsets was that we could run faster from people chasing us for being foolish enough to embark on such a trek across the country, two women, alone.

We were also making this journey to keep me “from making a terrible mistake,” Mama told me. I was eighteen years old and able to make my own decisions, or so I thought. But not this one.

Mama stood stiff as a wagon tongue, her back to my father and me, drinking a cup of coffee that steamed the window. I could see my brother Olaf outside, moving the sheep to another field with the help of Sailor, our dog, dots of white like swirling cotton fluffs bounding over an ocean of green. Such a bucolic scene about to reveal hidden rocks
beneath it.

“We are going to walk to New York City, Clara, you and I.”

“What?” I’d entered the kitchen, home for a weekend from my work as a domestic in Spokane. My mother had walked four hundred miles a few years earlier to visit her parents in a time of trial. We’d all missed her, and no one liked taking over her many duties that kept the family going. But walk to New York City?

“Why would we walk, and why are we going at all?” I had plans for the year ahead, and I figured it would take us a year to make such a trek.

My father grunted. “She listens to no one, your mother, when ideas she gets into her head.”

“Mama, you haven’t thought this through,” I said.

My mother turned to face us, her blue eyes intense. “It’s not possible to work out every detail in life, but one has to be bold. Did we know you’d find work in Spokane when we left Minnesota? No. Did we think we’d ever own our own farm? No. These are good things that happened because we took a chance and God allowed it.”

“We didn’t expect me to become injured, to mortgage the farm because we needed money to plant and live on,” my father said. It sounded like they’d had this argument more than once but never in front of me. “Bad things can happen, and this…this is a bad thing, I tell you.”

“There is nothing certain in this life,” she said to both of us. “We must grab what is given. ‘Occupy until I come,’ Scripture tells us. ‘Multiply’ is what that word occupy means. Here is our chance to do that, to save this farm, and all it requires is using what God gave us, our feet and our perseverance, our effort and a little inconvenience.”

“A little inconvenience?” I said. “I have plans for the summer, and I’m going to go to college in the fall and work part-time. I can’t leave my job.”

“I, I, I… Always it is about you,” my mother said. “You won’t have money for school if we lose this farm. You’ll have to work full-time to help this family. You see your father. He can’t do carpenter work as he did before. One must risk for family. We must trust in the goodness of human nature and God’s guidance.”

“But who would pay us for such a thing? Do you have a contract?” The wealthy Spokane people I served often spoke of contracts and lawyers and securities as I dipped squash soup into their Spode china bowls or brushed crumbs from their tables into the silver collectors before bringing chocolate mousse for dessert. These were businesspeople who
would never try to multiply by walking cross-country without a written contract.

“These are trustworthy people. They have the New York World behind them and the entire fashion industry too.”

What Mama proposed frightened me. “If we make it, how do we know they’ll pay us?”

“If we make it? Of course we’ll make it,” she said.

My father sagged onto the chair at the table, held his head with his hands while my mother flicked at the crumbs of a sandbakkel cookie collected on the oilcloth. I wondered if she thought of my little brother Henry. He’d loved those cookies.

“Who says these sponsors are reliable?” I said. I was as tall as my mother but had a rounder face than either of my parents. My mother and I shared slender frames, but her earth-colored hair twisted into a thick topknot while my soft curls lay limp as brown yarn. My mother set her narrow jaw. She didn’t take any sassing.

“Never you mind.” She brushed at her apron. “They’re honest. They’ve made an investment too. They’ll pay for the bicycle skirts once we reach Salt Lake City, and they’ll pay for the portraits. They’ve promised five dollars cash to send us on our way. The rest we’ll earn. Can’t you see? It’s our way out.”

“So you say,” my father said. He ran fingers through his yellow hair, and I noticed a touch of white.

“But why do I have to go?” I wailed. “Take Olaf. A man would be safer for you.”

“It’s about women’s stamina, not about a man escorting a woman. And you… You’re filled with wedding thoughts you have no business thinking.”

My face burned. “I’m not,” I said. “He’s… I work for his family, Mama.”

How she knew I harbored thoughts of a life with Forest Stapleton I’d never know. I was sure I’d never mentioned him. Well, maybe to my sister Ida once, in passing.

“I know about employers’ sons,” Mama said. My father lifted his head as though to speak, but my mother continued. “Besides, family comes first. You can go to college next year, when we have the money. What we need now is that ten thousand dollars so we can repay the mortgage and not lose this farm. It could go to foreclosure if we don’t do this.” My father dropped his eyes at the mention of that shameful word. “Ole, God has opened a door for us, and we would slight Him if we turned this down,” she pleaded.

“How can you leave your babies?” my father said then, his voice nearly a whisper. “How can you be away from Lillian and Johnny and Billy and Arthur and Bertha and Ida and Olaf—”

“I know the names of my children,” my mother said, her words like stings.

Ja, well then, how can you leave them?”

“It is only for a short time, seven months, Ole.” She sat next to him at the table, patted his slumped shoulder. “They will be in good hands with you and Ida and Olaf to look after them. It is a mark of my trust and confidence in you that I can even think about doing this thing.” She looked at me now. “When I walked before, that four hundred miles in Minnesota, you did well, all of you. It made you stronger. And I came back.” She patted my father’s hand. “I’ll come back. We will, Clara and I. Everything will be as it was before but with the mortgage made. The entire farm paid off, money for each of my children to go on to college when they want. No more worries about the future.” She took his silence as agreement. “Good. We go into Spokane later this week for our portrait,” my mother said to me, relief in her voice. “These will be sent to the New York papers and the Spokesman-Review.”

My father winced.

“People in Spokane will read about this?” I said. The thought humiliated. What would Forest think? What would our neighbors think?

“People across the country will know of it,” my mother said. She almost glowed, her eyes sparkling with anticipation.

“American women listen to their husbands,” my father said in Norwegian. “Or they should.” He rose from the table, shoved the chair against it, and stomped out.

I wanted my father to forbid her to go so I wouldn’t have to leave either. I didn’t dare defy her; I never had. We always did what she wanted. I was stuck.

“He’ll come around,” my mother said more to herself than to me. “He’ll see the wisdom of this. It’ll work. When we succeed, then, well, he’ll be grateful I did this for him, for the whole family.”

“Maybe he will,” I said. “But don’t expect me to ever be.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Daughter's Walk 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I did NOT enjoy this book. I really had to push myself to read some each day until I had finally finished it. I guess Historical Fiction is not for me, or at least this one in particular wasn't! Basically the book is about a mother and daughter who make the decision to leave their family and home to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City for a chance to win $10,000 which would save their family farm. Clara, the daughter was uncertain about going, but went ahead with her mother. Through awful circumstances and many disagreements with her mother Clara learned a lot about herself on their journey. Remember that this story took place in 1896 when women had very few rights. When the pair had to return home without the prize money, they were shunned and looked down upon by their entire community. Helga, Clara's mother was forced to live in submission of her husband. Clara did not want this lifestyle for herself so she chose once again to leave home and family behind. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
Our_Year_in_Books More than 1 year ago
A Daughter's Walk is the story (based on actual people) of a mother-daughter team who decide to walk across the United States, sponsored by a group of investors to promote dresses (that ladies can walk in) and save the family farm at the turn of the 20th century (an actual time). I think this is where actual history and fictional history part ways and the author takes over in the storytelling department. The story becomes a basic prodigal story without the squandering of inherited fortune and without the loving father taking back the wayward daughter. I did not really enjoy this book. I got through it but I found it tedious and mundane. Each of the story elements seemed to be attempts to be historical fiction. Yes, I do know that should be an accomplishment, given it's intended genre. But what I mean is the author seemed to be working to make it historical in nature. She has entire paragraphs where she attempts to show the passing of time by almost listing the things she found out about the period when she was conducting research. It is not woven into the story, it is an obvious "this is the time we are talking about" device.
Hollysmith More than 1 year ago
In 1896, Helga Estby and her daughter Clara, journey on foot from Spokane, Washington to New York City in a desperate attempt to save their family farm. Much to the dissatisfaction of their community, they leave their family behind to make the six month trek across the county. During the time spent on their walk, Helga reveals a deep secret that alters her perception of her family. Upon their return to Spokane, several years later, Clara continues to walk. . .but this time away from her family. She relocates and changes her name, leaving a rift between her and the ones she loves the most. Based off a true story, Jane Kirkpatrick explores Clara's life that follows the great walk of 1896. I'm not sure how to sum up my experience with this book, except to say that this story is like none I've ever read. It gripped me and fascinated me in a way that no other work of fiction has ever done. The tone of this novel differed from other novels, but that didn't deter me. Mrs. Kirkpatrick is a master at bringing real-life figures into pages of fiction. Since this book is written in first-person, and because Mrs. Kirkpatrick does such an outstanding job with these characters, I constantly I had to remind myself that I was reading a piece of fiction and not Clara's actual biography. This book is not your typical work of fiction. I found the pace a little slow, yet every second equally compelling. I'm not sure how the author accomplished that, but somehow, for this novel, it truly works. The Daughter's Walk tore at my emotions and touched me deeply. This is a fascinating fictional account about a young woman who forges on in a time when women were undervalued and fighting for their rights. I highly recommend this story. Readers who enjoy Nancy Moser's fictional accounts of real-life figures will devour The Daughter's Walk. Anyone who reads this story will come away with a new perspective on forgiveness and family. **I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.
MKMar More than 1 year ago
Jane Kirkpatrick does not dissappoint in this novel of a Mother and daughter walk across America and then the reprocussions. The story is so interesting I was unable to put it down and was disappointed when the story ended.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Reading a bit of history was very enjoyable. Time spent between mother and daughter is special and never forgotten. The joy and hardships of lives in the early 1900 made for a book one hates to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on a true story, this book is riveting! The main character is absolutely fascinating. The novel incudes: hard work, trapping, a walk across America, bitter family relationships, jeolouscy, other great traveling places, enduring friendships, loss loves, remarkable spirits, and much much more. Excellent book. Another excellent historical fiction based on facts is The Partisan by William Jarvis. Both books deserve an A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very heart rendering and cant wait to read other books by ths author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and easy to follow! I enjoy all of her books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This character grows up before your eyes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LucyBH More than 1 year ago
Very well written story of Clara & Helga's crossing from Oregon to New York on foot in 1800+ promoting a reform dress to raise funds for salvation of their farm. The rest ... is a beautiful sad story. It has moments of joy and peace and hope that Clara will finally get a success she so desires and longs for. However what she does longs for the most is family relations.
ductapewallet More than 1 year ago
This book is based on a true story and founded on fact, rooted in history, and almost forgotten. A story that should not have been but for the unplesantness of life and family crashing down around one young woman who lived an extrordinary life despite what was thrown at her. Clara is chosen by her mother, as the eldest child in the family, to join her in a walk across the entire country in 1896, in a gamble to earn enough money to save their family farm while showing that women are strong and showing the new fashion, a dress that didnt have a corset and had a higher hemline was going to be the dress of the future. They set out to walk from their home in Washington state and are to end up in New York walking more than 7,000 miles in 7 months by themselves. Mother Helga Etsby and daughter Clara manage to walk across the country, but their lives are forever changed when the things that they learn on the trip give Clara a different view of their family. When tragedy strikes, the family dosn’t hold together as it should, instead Clara and Helga are forbidden to talk of their months of walking, and Clara is cast out for not obeying this. She turns to some unlikely allies, and sets out on a different path. Her path leads her away from her family and into a family of her own making, although unusual, it holds and sticks with her through good times and bad, even through the more than 20 years before Clara starts to reconcile with the family she was born to. This story shows how blood isn’t always thicker, and sometimes you have to choose your family to do what is best for you to live and God won’t abandon you even if you walk away from Him. Talking about religion and faith with her new family Clara hears a debate asking “whether one ought to worship Jesus as a signpost or by following His direction. “If you see the sign saying ‘seventy miles to Coulee City’ you don’t stay there saying, ‘Yes, this is what matters. Iwill worship the sign.’ No, you follow the directions; you follow Him. Thats true worship, by doing what He asks of us.” Clara’s work ethic is something that stands out through the whole book, and in my life I keep seeing people that dont care enough to try hard enough at the tasks, the jobs they are given. Clara thinks “Passion allows you to see through the mists of disappointment or failures. Earn a little less, but have work you enjoy” and a friend asks her ” ‘ didn’t you say once that all new ideas are suspect because we tend to appreciate what already exists? Anything new dosn’t carry that substance.’ “ These 2 ideas are so true they just jumped off the pages and stuck with me. When I finished the book, I read the follow up, where the story came from ,what facts the author based the story on, and again I wound up heartbroken seeing that it took almost 100 years for the pain caused one woman by her family to fade so that this amazing story of courage and strength, faith and rejection,pain and love could be told. I’m glad this story came to light and has now been shared with us, the book was well written and I enjoyed it! “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.
PJtheEMT4 More than 1 year ago
I normally don't enjoy fiction novels, not even those under the umbrella called the "Christian" genre. Most "Christian" novels are either Amish love stories or just simply romance stories in general. Even the genre "historical" fiction usually is another name for a romance novel that takes place either in Amish country or in the 1800s out west. I usually find them dull, predictable and uninspired. The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick is quite different. True to its claim, it actually is to be considered a historical fiction novel True details about society's standards, the townspeople and technologies are faithfully included. Even the descriptions of towns, characters and circumstances are well researched right to the very last little detail. Historical facts and accuracy enlighten the reader as well as add to the authenticity. This book held my attention from the start. It was not a chore to read. The author challenges the common social view of the mother- parent relationship. The mother, Helga Estby, is portrayed as impulsive, enthusiastic and strong- willed woman. She is willing to confront and change society's standard of the role of women. In contrast, the daughter is more level headed, and reistant to change. Clara, the eighteen year old daughter often questions and admonishes her mother for what she deems to be irresponsible and impulsive choices. Yet her 19th century sense of duty and loyalty ensures that she will obey and follow her mother. There is no disrespect or refusal. Both the mother and daughter have distinct yet strong moral characters and a strong sense of familial duty, even though the expression is vastly different. This is the story of an adventure that a mother embarks in order to save the family farm from forclosure. There is risk and danger involved- physical and emotional as well, yet hope drives Helga to pursue the course. Though she is hesitant, Clara goes with her mother out of a sense of duty. The story chronicles their adventures and interactions with the 19th century world around them. A map chronicles the path of their journey. I found myself turning to the map in order to get a preview of how far into their journey that they were. As a blogger for WaterBrook publishers I received this book for the purpose of writing this review. the opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As with all of Jane Kirkpatrick's books this is a great book. It is a glimpse into the history of the first world war era which takes place around north east Wa. but gives includes some world views too. Very worth reading.
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GracieO More than 1 year ago
This is a book you won't put down. The family dynamics, the hardships, the hope that is woven throughout this story makes it a great read.
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MoiraM More than 1 year ago
*The Daughter's Walk* tells the life story of Clara Estby, beginning in her late teens when her mother drafts her to accompany her on a trek from Spokane, Washington to New York City in a bid to win $10,000. The walk takes place in the late 1800's and the money is meant to save the Estby family farm. Sadly, because of Mrs. Estby's inability to stick to schedules and avoid side trips the women arrive in poor condition, Clara very ill and on the verge of death and out of time. They do NOT receive the prize. When they arrive home there are surprises waiting. The second half is truly engaging and takes place AFTER Clara leaves home. Why does she leave? What does her mother confide on the walk that changes Clara's life in unexpected and irreversible ways? How does Clara survive after she leaves home? Grab a copy of *The Daughter's Walk*, something warm and tasty to sip, curl up by a cozy fire in your favorite pajamas and enjoy the suspenseful tale!
Buckysprplmonkey More than 1 year ago
The Daughter's Walk tells the tale of Clara Etsby, a young woman who reluctantly follows her Norwegian immigrant mother on a trek to walk across the United State of America as a way to raise awareness for women's rights and to raise money to save the family farm from foreclosure. The story doesn't end with the end of the women's walk, however. On their return, both Clara and her mother, Helga, find they have much to learn about family, sacrifice and forgiveness. While the book is based on real events, it is a novel and there are fictional characters and events woven throughout. I've had this book on my wishlist for a while, so I was happy when it popped up on my list of books to review. It was not at all what I expected- but that's not a bad thing. The women's walk from Spokane, WA to New York City is only the first half of the book. At first, I thought that perhaps it should have ended there, but once I got into the second part of the book I knew that so much of great importance would have been lost had that been the case. While the overall tone of the book gets a little preachy at times, it's not as overt and forced as many novels that are touted as being "Christian." I rolled my eyes a few times, but only a few. And the story and characters had me so wrapped up that I didn't mind. They had me so wrapped up, in fact, that I spent my entire afternoon today and most of the evening reading this book because I didn't want to put down. I strongly recommend this book as a great vacation or holiday read. It is intelligent and interesting, but fast moving and enjoyable all at the same time. You are left with plenty to think about without having to think to hard to get to the meat of it. If you're looking for a new novel to get into, make it a point to pick up a copy of The Daughter's Walk. As part of the Blogging for Books program, the publisher provided me with a review copy of this book.
Ellybean More than 1 year ago
The Daughter's Walk is the first book that I've ever read by the author Jane Kirk Patrick and it won't be my last. This book would be categorized under the historical catagory and it does not disappoint. The author does an exceptionally well job in describing the era in which the main character Clara Estby resides in. I loved reading the tale of the character and deeply felt for her in the struggles and great joy when things were going in a blessed way in her journey. This story I found to be a quick read because it was so hard to put down! The story itself, The Daughter's Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick is about a mother, Helga Etsby and her nineteen year old daughter Clara. Who accept a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months in order to save the family farm. And what journey it was! Can you imagine traveling 3,500 miles in the late 1800's? In this story, you'll be reminded of the importance of determination, family, forgiveness , and waiting on God. Overall, it's a wonderfully epic story in my eyes. I would encourage everyone to give it a read. I'm very eager to pick up a few more books by this author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first read about this book, the story sounded interesting but then I realized that it's a historical fiction novel. Two women really walked from Spokane, Washington to New York City in 1896! Just that part of the story is amazing and it's only half of the book. At times the story was heartbreaking but their lives took a turn and then it become uplifting again. I really enjoyed reading about this family and what they went through. Clara was a strong woman and her story is inspiring. As I was reading the book I was wondering which parts of this story are fact and what parts Jane Kirkpatrick filled in. I had planned to do some research on the internet after finishing the book but I was presently surprised that author included notes at the end of the book. She explained her research, what facts she uncovered, and what she speculated. She also explained her reasoning behind how she filled in the missing gaps. I thought every decision she made was suitable and it made me love the book even more.