A Light in the Wilderness: A Novel

A Light in the Wilderness: A Novel

by Jane Kirkpatrick

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Overview

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. But 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800722319
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 304,247
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the coveted Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her works have been finalists for the Christy Award, Spur Award, Oregon Book Award, and Reader's Choice awards, and have won the WILLA Literary Award and Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Many of her titles have been Book of the Month and Literary Guild selections. You can also read her work in more than fifty publications, including Decision, Private Pilot, and Daily Guideposts. Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry. Learn more at www.jkbooks.com.

Read an Excerpt

A Light in the Wilderness

A Novel


By Jane Kirkpatrick

Revell

Copyright © 2014 Jane Kirkpatrick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2231-9


CHAPTER 1

Having an Opinion


1844—Platte County, Missouri

Letitia preferred the shadows, avoiding the skirmish before her. But the child tugged on her hand and led Letitia to the dust in front of the Platte County courthouse. Men's voices sliced the air like the whips of a field marse, sharp and stinging. The air was heavy as a wet, wool quilt, yet dust billowed around the two men as it did when bulls scraped the earth. "She was contracted for, fair and square. She failed to do the work!" Letitia knew the speaker, Davey Carson, once of Ireland, now of Carroll Township, Platte County, Missouri. Today, full of consternation. Bushy eyebrows with the tint of auburn formed a chevron of scowl over his nose. "Sure and I did nothing like she says I did. Not a thing. The girl didn't work, I tell ye!"

Letitia shrank back, grateful his anger wasn't directed at her. She tugged at the child's hand to move toward the Platte City store.

"We'll settle it in court then." The second man brushed past Davey, leaving the Irishman like a shriveled pickle in the bottom of a barrel, no one wanting to touch it.

Davey's red face scanned the disappearing crowd. When his eyes caught Letitia's, she glanced down. Hot sun brought out sweat on her forehead, intensified the scent of coconut oil and honey she'd used to smooth her crinkly hair. She turned her head to the side. "Let's go." She started to reach for the child's hand.

"I suppose you believe that too," he accused.

She halted.

"That I'm a madman capable of beating a young lass and misusing her, slave or no! Is that your opinion, woman?"

Was he really speaking to her? She should walk away. She didn't need to get in an argument with a white man. She was in the town getting buttons and bows for Mrs. Bowman and looking after Artemesia, who had begged to come along. The child stared, slipped her hand inside Letitia's. It felt wet and warm.

"I gots nothin' to speak of, Mistah Carson. I gots no opinion. I jus' stayin' out of the way." She did have an opinion, though. He had been kind to her the year before, not long after she'd arrived in Platte County, when she'd asked him to take her money and buy a cow with it.

His voice rose again. "I may be an old mountain man not accustomed to town ways, but I know how to take care of property." He threw his hands into the air. "I never touched her. Never! It was a trick all along, I tell ye. They told the lass to run away so they'd have their property and my money and I'd be without her labor and my money both." Davey stomped up the courthouse steps past the black and white cornerstones. Letitia was dismissed.

Each American was due his "day in court," or so she'd heard. She hoped he was successful in his lawsuit. She wasn't sure why. Taking sides wasn't her way. Her heartbeat returned to a steady pace.

In the store, they waited. The mercantile owner had customers to keep happy, and serving those white people first was a given. Letitia spread her hands over the smooth bolts of cloth, the new dyes tickling her nose. She lifted the lacework on the shelf, fingering the tidy stitches. Irish lace? She shook her head. People were trading their finery for hardtack and flour, getting ready for travel west.

Letitia was going to Oregon too, with the Bowmans. She wasn't certain how she felt about that. She'd learned the rules of Missouri, showed her papers when asked, endured the sneers and snarls of "free black" as though the word meant stink or worse, a catching kind of poison spread by being present near her breath. But good things had happened to her since she'd been in this state too. She'd earned money helping birth babies, enough to buy a cow. Davey Carson had in fact made the purchase for her, taking her money to acquire the cow that she paid the Bowmans for feeding—along with her own keep.

But she'd heard that the Oregon people wanted to join the states as free. She'd be free there too, and without slavery and its uncertainty hovering like a cloud of fevered mosquitoes. Maybe in Oregon she'd try her hand at living alone. Or if she married and had children, they'd be born free there and no one could ever sell them away from her. What property she had would be hers to keep. Like the cow she owned. She eyed a silver baby rattle on the mercantile shelf. She felt its cool weight. For when ... if ever again. No, Mr. Bowman said they could only take essentials. A baby rattle wouldn't qualify.

Still, Letitia chose to go to Oregon with them, chose to help Sarah with the laundry and care of the children. She felt free to call her Missus Bowman whenever they were in public, even though at the log cabin she could call her Miss Sarah, like an older sister. Though they weren't ever so close as that.

While Artemesia ogled the hard candy counter, Letitia wandered the store, placing a set of needles into her basket, looking at a hairbrush, her face reflected in the silver back. Coal black hair frizzing at her temples beneath her straw hat, damp from humidity heavy as a dog's breath at high noon. Dark brown eyes set into a face the color of the skinny piano keys. Sadness looked out at her, reminding her of all those eyes had seen in her twenty-six years. The set was nothing she could afford.

A gust of wind burst sand against the store's windows. Outside the weather worked itself up into a downpour. Getting home would drench them. She ought to have remembered the slicker for the child, but it hadn't looked like rain. She didn't want the child to catch cold.

A sewing box caught her eye. Tortoiseshell with green and blue silk lining the inside. She opened it and saw the ivory spool holders. She could make a false bottom and put her paper there, somewhere safe and secure.

"What can I do for you, Miss Artemesia?" The shopkeeper spoke to the child. He and Letitia were the only adults now, all other customers serviced and gone, scampering through the rain with the umbrellas the shopkeeper loaned them.

"Mistah Bowman will be in tomorrow to pick up these things." Letitia handed him a list, careful not to touch his fingers even though she wore gloves. "I's buying the needles."

"This your mammy, Miss Bowman?" He nodded toward Letitia. "Yes sir. She's Aunt Tish."

"She has money to buy needles?"

Letitia raised her voice. "I has money Suh."

He frowned. Letitia handed him the coins. "Bowmans pay me. I's a free woman."

He harrumphed. "So you're all really going to Oregon then, Miss Bowman?"

Artemesia nodded.

"Must say, you'll be missed, little lady." He turned to put Letitia's money in the till. "Half the town seems to be heading west. I see the wagons rolling." He sighed. "Wouldn't mind a change of scenery myself now and then. Not sure though that I trust those letters sent back about all the good things Oregon has awaiting."

"We able to borrow one of your umbrellas, suh? It rainin' harsh."

"Should have remembered to bring one."

"Yessuh, but didn't see no storms walkin' in. Don't want the chil' getting' sick."

He nodded. "Wouldn't want that on my conscience either. Here you go."

Letitia didn't give her opinion of letters sent and received. He wouldn't care. Few asked her opinion. Miss Sarah didn't invite suggestions for how to clean the bedrolls of fleas or how to lessen morning sickness. Mr. Bowman acted like she didn't exist except to help break hemp or butcher hogs. But Davey Carson had asked her opinion of his lawsuit, now that she thought about it. She wore a little shame that she'd sidestepped his question, didn't answer that she found him to be a kind man, unlike what he was accused of. He had treated her as though she was more than a post. That so rarely happened, she'd been shocked and was now surprised at the feeling of warmth arriving on the memory.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick. Copyright © 2014 Jane Kirkpatrick. Excerpted by permission of Revell.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A Light in the Wilderness 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
SherreyM More than 1 year ago
I have said it before, and I will say it again. Jane Kirkpatrick's historical fiction never disappoints. A careful and detailed researcher as well as gifted writer, Jane shares eloquently the story of an African-American, freed slave woman named Letitia. The only one of her people travelling with a wagon train headed for Oregon. However, Jane is also skilled at sharing multi-layered stories in her works, and here she also shares the lives and experiences of two other women: Nancy Hawkins, a woman who loses much on this long and treacherous trail, and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian, the last of her tribe in the Willamette Valley of the Oregon territory. As the seasons change, so do the lives of these women. As they suffer through birth and death, life and death, testing of their mutual faith, fear and courage, and almost losing one another, they experience lastly a bond not expected. From the start, the story of Letitia, Nancy, and Betsy takes hold of the reader and never lets go. Character descriptions and their circumstances are so accurately told the reader feels transported to time and place. I have to share that as an Oregonian transplanted from Tennessee I was excited for Letitia's journey. However, without giving anything away, I shared some of her disappointment and fears upon arriving in Oregon. My Recommendation: Readers looking for well-written historical fiction should seek out Jane Kirkpatrick and her books. A Light in the Wilderness is well paced, engaging, full of history, and a strong story of faith. If you like a book you can enjoy in one or two readings, this will be one for your stack. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
4Gazpacho More than 1 year ago
A Light in the Wilderness is a historical fiction that is based on fact. The main character, Letitia, actually existed. The principle points of history and her part in them actually happened although the minute details have been lost over time. However, official records contain enough information that along with the well-researched facts of events of that time period, the author's fictionalization makes this character and other main players in the story, come alive. The book is well worth the time to read. I highly recommend it. Letitia was a former slave for the Bowman family in Kentucky. Before the senior Bowman passed on, he freed her and provided her papers to prove her status. Later, when the younger Bowman and his wife moved to Missouri, she went with them. They bartered with her, trading her care of their children for a place to live. During her years in Missouri, she obtained a job at a local hotel doing the laundry, making up the rooms and occasionally serving drinks in the evenings. She also possessed the skills of a midwife. With her savings she bought her own milk cow and earned a little more income selling the milk. For a person with such a tiny stature, she had a big heart and a strong, determined, enterprising personality. In the pre-civil war days, life was especially hard for free blacks. They were often despised by slaves and whites alike. But Letitia was proud of her status as a free woman. She valued and carefully guarded her papers at all times. In the purest sense of the term, this book is not really a romance. There are romantic elements in the story, but my opinion is that Davey and Tish stayed together because he was kind, generous and needed a partner, while Tish needed his protection and security and was fond of him. She didn't mind providing him with children. I consider this tale more of a historical fiction than a romance. Still, their relationship provided a catalyst for change toward maturity in their lives. Letitia grew in confidence about her place in life, while Davey settled down a bit more to be a responsible husband and father. However, that restlessness of his got him into trouble one last time and cost him his life.  The author, Jane Kirkpatrick, is a true storyteller. She created characters that were easy for me to empathize with. I felt fear and anger and sadness for all the unfairness Letitia faced in her life. I rejoiced when she discovered true friendship with neighbors with whom they traveled to Oregon. I felt the pain she went through when people turned their backs on her because of her skin color, and after Davey died. I could understand Davey's wanderlust, and yet felt Tish's frustration when he left her and their children a couple months at a time when it hit him. I could feel justified anger and frustration with Tish in her fight to keep her home after Davey had passed on. I was completely wrapped up in the story. Those are the signs of a good storyteller. I read a lot of historical fiction works, and yet there were several facts revealed in this book I had never heard before--some things about living in Missouri in that time period, some new information about the trip to Oregon over the mountains and through dangerous territory, and definitely about Oregon itself during its formation years. One way the author shares tidbits of history and viewpoints is through the narration. But what stood out most to me was how the author shared perspectives through her characters' thoughts. I admire how the author accomplished this; she even pushed the envelope a bit using this method. By sharing a person's point of view about the harsh realities they faced, the author presented conflict and resolution while still remaining within the confines of compassionate Christian fiction.  Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Revel, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
KarenKetcham More than 1 year ago
A Light in the Wilderness is based on a true story which makes the historical aspect all the more inviting. Leticia has a strong spirit and a desire to live without fear of being returned to the south as a slave. She has been granted her freedom on her owners death and ends up on a wagon train headed to Oregon. The shunning and hardship she receives from other women on the trail dealing with the same circumstances of trail life just makes me burn. You will fall hard for Leticia and be cheering for her all through the story. She shows incredible strength through all her adversities. Her "husband" Davey I could do without, he is a lazy, selfish, self serving man who would be nowhere without Leticia's hard work. There were times I was ashamed of women's behavior and proud of women's behavior (Leticia) I wanted to go to battle for her. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Book Club Network for the opportunity to read and review this book. I received this book free of charge from Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review.
Britney_Adams More than 1 year ago
“Three very different women. One dangerous journey. And a future that seems just out of reach.” A Light in the Wilderness is a gripping story, one that captivated me from the very beginning! Based on a true story, Jane Kirkpatrick breathes life into her characters and beckons the reader into their world. I loved the historical depth of the story and the palpable emotions of the characters. A Light in the Wilderness is a very compelling story and a recommended read for fans of historical fiction! I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network. All thoughts expressed are my own and no monetary compensation was received.
NanceeMarchinowski More than 1 year ago
A heartrending journey toward freedom The story of Letitia Carson is a fictional characterization of a freed slave whose story is beautifully told in rich detail. Her life story is heartrending, but her strength and faith kept her moving forward through hard times and overwhelming obstacles. Her common law husband, Davey Carson, was supportive and yet not available to her in times of need. Belittled and harassed by those she traveled with from Missouri to Oregon, Letitia kept to herself and her common law husband. During their journey she found friendship through one other woman whose husband was a doctor. A midwife, Letitia had assisted Nancy Hawkins in childbirth, and their friendship became a strong bond as they met from time to time throughout their lengthy journey to the great northwest. Once she reached her destination she met Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian who became a great support to her, and taught her much about her surroundings. Jane Kirkpatrick has created a spirit-moving portrayal of Letitia, and the trials she suffered because of the color of her skin. This book of realistic fiction is filled with great detailing and believable representations of a woman of color at a time in our nation's history when people of color were looked upon as property, not as human beings. It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research in producing this compelling and undiluted narrative of the strengths of the women who held one another up through great stress and hardship. I highly recommend this powerful book! I intend to read more of Jane Kirkpatrick's writing! Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Book Fun through The Book Club Network's For Readers Only program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book,engrossing and lyrical
wileysmSM More than 1 year ago
An intriguing story, based on true events in the 1840's in the Oregon Territory, about Letitia, a freed slave, and Davey Carson, a prospector and general adventurer.  Letitia is a midwife and makes many friends along the way with this skill. Letitia has a positive attitude, that she cultivates, in spite of all the injustices that have happened to her and continue to happen to her.  She meets the Hawkins family and Nancy becomes her close friend.  Letitia also makes friends with Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  This book is well written with wonderful characters, who are described so well.  It is a glimpse into a part of history that I was not aware of; Letitia was the first Black lady to travel by wagon train to go west to the Oregon Territory from Missouri.  She has several landmark events that shape this story. I really enjoyed this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent!!  I can see why it won a Spur Award!   Wonderful historical fiction - based on an actual woman in history.  Great character development.  Highly recommended.  Other great historical fiction and non-fiction writers are:   Duncan Barrett, William Jarvis, Judith Lennox, Margaret Mayhew, Melynda Jarrett, Eileen Townsend, Anne DeCourcy, Soraya Lane, Pamela Winfield, Helen Forrester, and Iris Jones Simantel.  Like Jane Firkpatrick, all these writers have taken history and made it fascinating.  The book is an informative narrative!!!!  Well worth my time and money.  A++++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are two themes in this book:  True freedom for former slaves, and surviving the months-long journey walking half way across the US to the just opened-up territory of Oregon.  Jane Kirkpatrick takes us on a journey into both worlds.  Her portrayal of the black wife and former slave is believable and represents what so many went through, even after having been emancipated.  Her heroine survived on personal ingenuity and friendship of people she was always kind to, despite an atmosphere of rebuttal.  Day-by-day accounts of life in a wagon train helps the readers understand the grit that it took to go through unknown and sometimes hostile territory in order to eventually settle in unknown and sometimes hostile territory.  The book had a slow start and did not really take hold for me until I had passed first fifty pages.  But then it became both entertaining and informative.
grammy57 More than 1 year ago
Would you like to take a step back in time? This book will do that for you. It is based on a true story and so well written you find yourself living with these people a the silent observer. Each person in the story becomes real as the characters are so well written. You will find yourself living on the wagon train. You will meet others both nice and not so nice. You will learn what it is to be the outcast. I found myself not wanting to put the book down. Wondering how each step of the story will end and continue. You will not be disappointed. I have never read Jane Kirkpatrick before, but this book has definitely made me a fan. This book was given to me for an honest review.
Cindi_A More than 1 year ago
Letitia, once a slave with her freedom papers in hand, decides that leaving Missouri is the only way to truly be free. What she doesn't count on is that G.B. Smith, who despises Negros, joins the same wagon train. This story takes a look into the lives of some of the folks including the Carson, Hawkins, and Bowman families. There are many difficulties had throughout this journey and even after their arrival in the Oregon territory. The author does a wonderful job of painting realistic characters and describes the happenings in fluid detail. Nancy Hawkins was my favorite character because of her loving nature. She showed Letitia such kindness and true friendship. Another great book by Jane Kirkpatrick!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mama_Cat More than 1 year ago
Written with excellence and intrigue, A Light in the Wilderness is a shining example of seeing hope and Christ in any circumstance. Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest historical novel is a fascinating glimpse of the life of an African American freed woman who travelled west with her common-law husband during the height of slavery and runaway slave laws in the 1800’s. As this is one of my favorite American historical eras to read fiction based on, I was captivated from the first page. The women in this novel are strong – taking the westward journey to Oregon in the mid 1800’s was clearly not for wimps! It is astounding the challenges they faced with the help of God! We read primarily about Letitia Carson who had taken the surname of the Irish immigrant with whom she made her life. She was given freedom papers while still a young woman, yet we see how she is pursued by bounty hunters who are more concerned with getting paid than in respecting those with legitimate papers. Letitia was a strong-spirited woman who had already survived slavery whose husband was never quite able to stand against her in anything she wanted – even though his lack of follow-up action cost her most of what she and David had worked for together. Other ladies, friends of Letitia’s, that we read about are Nancy Hawkins who she meets on the way west, and Betsy, a Native American neighbor in Oregon. We see the days of Letitia’s marriage to Davey, their children, the work she does, and the women whose babies she assists into the world. Her care for their home and family as well as her gardening and animal care show Letitia to be a woman of many skills. She and her friends are portraits of how real women in those tumultuous decades persevered and even thrived in spite of enormous odds. Her faith in God and how He was taking care of her and her future are inspiring through our challenges great and small. The development of each character is done with care to detail and adventures that bring to life how women, in particular African-American women, lived during those incredibly challenging decades. It is also a demonstration of how difficult life was for the Native Americans who were quickly losing their land, their legacy, their very way of life. I very much admire both Letitia and Betsy, struggling through changes and befriending each other to bring about a better life for both of their families. The plot was based on records regarding the life of Letitia and her family and friends, and was told in a compelling manner that led this reader to turn the pages a little more slowly and inhale the fragrance of these lives and the God who cared for them. Disappointments, betrayals, and loss were unwelcome companions, yet they pressed on. God’s love shines through this novel prepared with the combination of countless hours of research, speculation regarding various events, and weaving throughout the history of the times and faith in a God bigger than circumstances. The result is a spectacular tapestry of loss and triumph, of love and forgiveness. Jane Kirkpatrick’s Author’s Note at the back of the book describes the references used and which events in the book demonstrated authenticity or speculation, and a suggested reading list is provided. I highly recommend A Light in the Wilderness to Christian women of all ages who appreciate well-written historical fiction and to those who are interested in the lives and progress of African American and Native American women in an era leading up to and immediately following the Civil War. Those who enjoy great adventures based on people who really lived will also enjoy it. With a grateful heart, I received a copy of this book through the “For Readers Only” group at The Book Club Network, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.
Karen02KD More than 1 year ago
When Letitia receives her freedom papers, she is not sure what “freedom” really means. She comes to find out that it means the ability to make one’s own choices and bear the consequences, good or bad, for those choices. She comes to find out it may also mean standing up for yourself. Whatever “freedom” means, Letitia values it highly and vows to keep her freedom papers with her always. Letitia makes a choice not to go to Oregon with her former owners. Instead, she chooses to stay in Missouri, a slave state. The problem is that she has no place to stay or keep her cow. She also has no place to work. Davey Carson offers her a place to live and eventually he offers her his heart. Since it is illegal for a black and white to marry, what does she choose? How does she make it when she eventually heads west on the Oregon Trail to a new life in Oregon? She would never have survived without the friends who come into her life. This is an exceptional book, based on the true story of Letitia Carson and those who came in contact with her. The author has done extensive research on her little known story. She becomes one of the first free black women to arrive in Oregon. She will bring two lawsuits against a white man in defense of her freedom. I was so surprised to learn of the exemption laws in Oregon and the prejudice inflicted in a supposed “free” state. The author’s depiction of the lives of women on the trail to Oregon – the dangers and heartaches as well as joys – is especially thorough. This was a wonderful book, delightful as well as informative. I received this book from The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
millstreetreader More than 1 year ago
A Light in the Wilderness shows again that there are wonderful stories of courage, determination, and strength to be found in the files of our country's many museums and archives.  And Jane Kirkpatrick has made a successful writing career discovering and retelling the mostly unknown stories of some of those women.  In an interview that follows the book, Kirkpatrick talks about the process of writing historical fiction, Research gives her the who, what, where, and when facts.Then she "explore(s) the why and how of their lives."  She also says she likes to choose women who would mostly be seen as "ordinary" so that we, the readers, can put ourselves into their lives, considering, as we read, what we would do in similar circumstances.  Choosing just how many facts to include in her historical fiction is a balancing act; she says readers can be overwhelmed and bored with too many facts, but need enough to capture an authenticity of the time period.  I wholeheartedly concur with her philosophy on historical fiction.  I've read some that is entirely too fluffy and captures nothing of the true time period or the people; I've also read some recently so laden with facts that the essence of the main character is never given a chance to breathe. When I see that Kirkpatrick has written another book, I know I will not be disappointed and that I will learn about another fascinating woman from the past. In A Light in the Wilderness that woman is Letitia Carson, a free black woman who travels to Oregon with her common law husband in the 1840's.  Knowing that their interracial marriage would not be legally recognized and always fearing that her "free' papers would not be honored in the new territory, Letitia convinced her husband to enter into a contract saying she was paid for her "work" with money, property, and livestock.  That way she felt she would be protected if he would die.  When he does die almost a decade after arriving in Oregon all his belongings and properties are legally seized as they determine who should inherit.  Letitia brings suit against the estate, the first black woman to do so, and the first black woman to have a contract recognized.  Kirkpatrick has done a superb job of filling in those "how" and "why" questions about Letitia and her Irish immigrant husband Davey, basing her narrative on a myriad of documents and sources.  Key to the story are the friendships she made with Nancy, one of the white settlers whose babies she helped deliver and Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian who lived on what would be Davey Carson's homestead, all well documented.  What emerges is a story of a unique marriage and a strong woman who knew the world was against her, but never lost sight of her desire to provide for herself and her children.  I don't if Jane's inclusion of  Charity the cow is historical or not, but it was one of those special details that makes her writing alive with warmth and believability  Jane Kirkpatrick has included historical background about Letitia on her website and she writes more about why she was called to write this book.  I will continue to read Kirkpatrick's books. I have never been disappointed.  I only wish I could hear her speak about all her works.  She has given us a treasure trove of stories from the past..  I received an ecopy of this title from Netgalley for review purposes.
MrsTina42MR More than 1 year ago
A Light In The Wilderness***** by Jane Kirkpatrick A Light In The Wilderness takes place in Missouri in the 1800's where Letitia lives and struggles to make a living as a freed woman of color. Letitia may have her papers saying she is free but not everyone sees her that way and continue to treat her as a slave. Even so, Letitia has a kind heart, wants to be treated fairly and loved. Davy Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman, and Letitia “marry” even though it is illegal. Letitia feels she can actually trust Davy, but Davy has secrets that he keeps well hidden. Will these secrets tear them apart? Davy and Letitia move west to Oregon to make a better life for themselves. Oregon may be a free-state with no slaves, but there is still hatred and hostile feelings toward persons of color. There are many challenges and hardships Letitia faces in her lifetime. Much hatred, facing and overcoming fear and humiliation, learning to trust others and herself, all challenge Letitia. But she holds onto her dignity and is generous, kind hearted and forgives injustices preferring to hold onto the good, learns courage and her faith keeps her loving despite her challenging life. This is a remarkable story and even more remarkable as it is a true story. ~~I received a copy of this book from the Book Fun Network for my review~~
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
A light in the Wilderness is based on a true story. I loved how Jane Kirkpatrick portrayed Letitia in this book. Letitia was a fascinating and strong woman who endured so much in her lifetime. I love reading the fictional account of her life and appreciated it even more when I read the author's note. She really did her research. I highly recommend this book. A great historical and I look forward to more by this author. 5+ stars
barbjan10 More than 1 year ago
Jane Kirkpatrick is a phenomenal writer to pen such fiction from truth into a beautiful work of art.  This “truth is stranger than fiction” novel takes place during the 1800’s, following a harrowing wagon train venture from Missouri to Oregon.  A personal note here – I am well acquainted with the areas of Oregon Ms. Kirkpatrick wrote about, which brought visual enjoyment during my reading. Letitia is a strong black woman, full of wisdom and dreams.  Her dream of freedom from the buckles of slavery is ongoing, even though she received her papers of freedom in Kentucky.  Frankly, prejudice against the color of one’s skin is abhorrent to me – I’ve never understood slavery.  Letitia will not be stopped!  The reader will discover immediately that this courageous young woman turns the other cheek to adversity and faces life with everything within her. Recently, I read in an interview with Jane Kirkpatrick that the wedding scene between Letitia (Tish) and Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant, had to be discreet and meaningful considering they were breaking the law.  The wedding was sweet and joyful, even a bit of humorous relief when a Jewish peddler happened upon the scene, including stomping on the glass as is done in Jewish weddings.  This is one of my favorite scenes.  Davey was kind to Tish, although he was of a male mind of that time period.  Soon after, a thorn begins in Tish’s side when Davey’s grown son appears in the picture, jealous, hateful, and prejudiced.  He does not stick around long when he decides to take another route to Oregon.  Another constant thorn in her side is Greenberry Smith, mean spirited and murderous, intent on making Tish’s life miserable.  Tish wants Davey to draw up a paper willing his property to her and her children should he become deceased.  He is reluctant because he does not know how to read and write, a fact he keeps to himself.  He finally comes up with something that appeases Tish for the time being.  Among the characters is the dearly loved milking cow Charity that Tish owns, in whom she can safely confide, and does so many times.  Tish is pregnant when the trek to Oregon begins. She is mid-wife to many, but alone when her baby daughter Martha is born.  The children love her as she entertains them with great stories.  Her closest friend is Nancy Hawkins, a quilter who treasures the loom made for her by her husband.  The determination and inner strength of the women on the wagon train amazes me…I can scarcely comprehend their depth. It is difficult to be succinct about this beautiful story.  One of the impractical events that occurred was when Davey inadvertently lost Tish’s freedom papers and his document.  Tish had hidden them in a flour barrel that Davey exchanged for a full barrel.  But Tish was to find out within time that the document Davey made up was of no value – which she felt a betrayal on his part. Finally, Tish made it to Oregon City alone.  Davey met her there after helping with other matters regarding the wagon train.  Davey did not stay around much, as he got gold rush fever and headed to California several times.  Settling in Oregon reveals much more – Tish found joy in meeting a Kalapuya Indian woman named Betsy and her grandson.  Davey and Tish had a baby son, Adam born around 1853.  Davey, Jr. enters the picture again in Oregon, causing her frustration.  Hardship is a daily word, but Letitia’s trust and faith in God were chiefly imperative to getting through each day.  Letitia’s valor brought her through a lawsuit with a white man over her property.  She was known as one of the first free black slaves to enter Oregon.  I enjoyed Ms. Kirkpatrick’s novel because of the history and culture of the 1800’s.  This free child of God is definitely the Light in the Wilderness.   Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
RobinWillson More than 1 year ago
Have you read any of Jane Kirkpatrick's books? If not, it's a must! Based on historical facts, this book takes place in the early 1800's and involves a wagon train from Missouri to Oregon, where they settle. Letitia is a woman of color who has been freed. But that doesn't mean her life is easy - no, not at all. She connects with Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant who has been kind to her. They secretly get married, even though it is forbidden, and travel together to a new life. Being free doesn't make Letitia equal. Being a woman doesn't either. As the author says, safety is a state of mind, a matter of faith. Typical of Jane's books, this story is about a woman who is strong and courageous, living and surviving with God's love, sharing that light with others around her. Oregon's laws are off again, on again regarding slavery, citizenship and basic rights for people of color. Few people accept Letitia, but the few that do are tightly bound with her. Constant uncertainty, difficult and trying situations face Letitia all through the story, but she continues to grow and improve other's lives as well. With and without a man's help. This story enriches our lives with lessons as valuable now as they were back then. I was given this book in return for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way.
ConR More than 1 year ago
I always look forward to Jane's books, and have been following her for years. I know that when I read one of her stories, I will be going on an adventure of some kind. I have come to respect and admire her attention to detail, her love for the history of a story and her extensive research. All that she does to flesh out the bones of a story make her books believable, historically accurate and emotionally compelling. Letitia Carson's story is one of courage. I love how Jane gives voice to Letitia's fears and failings as well as her strength of character and stamina. I cannot imagine being as brave as Letitia, and as embracing of hardship. Also central to the story is the injustice done to "minorities", and Letitia fell into that category in many ways, being black, a former slave, and a woman. Jane's strong respect for Native Americans is present here as well, and I rejoiced over the friendship between Letitia and Betsy. As always, I highly recommend this book and will be passing my copy on to all my friends. I look forward to Jane's next story, and I wonder where she will take me then.
PianoLady831 More than 1 year ago
Letitia's story needed to be told and Jane Kirkpatrick is the one to tell it. I've read enough of Jane's novels to know that readers can trust her to create an accurate story through meticulous research, and turn it into a compelling read through the eyes of fiction. Letitia's story is one of courage and determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, faith in God, and a most satisfying triumphant ending. "She had imagined the day she would escape; it would be high noon when people least expected them to run, when the dogs lay panting in the Kentucky sun and the patrols rested, not seeking a colored woman making her way to freedom." The first sentence captures the heart of Letitia. A Light in the Wilderness is the moving and poignant story of Letitia Carson, a little-known African-American pioneer - one of the first black women to cross the Oregon Trail in 1845, giving birth along the way. Characterization is strong and the setting is vividly conveyed, but I think the story's main strength is that Letitia is a character to which everyone can relate. It was easy to connect with what she was feeling, seeing, and experiencing - from her desire to be recognized as free to her need to be treated as a partner and a person of worth. I loved her thoughts about the wisdom of relocating:  "She wasn't sure what drew people from their homelands to the unknown, what certainty they felt compelled to set aside for the imaginations of a future believed to be somehow in a 'better place.' There could be no better place than where one was . . ." Letitia was free, yet treated as a slave; married, but not in the eyes of the law. It's always hard to read about man's cruelty to certain races or classes of people, and that is vividly pictured in this novel. Every time I see the word "exclusion" from now on, it will bring Letitia's story to mind. And I can't help but wonder, have we really come all that far today?  I enjoyed the Author's Note section at the end, and wanted to share Jane's words concerning the personal impact of A Light in the Wilderness:  "I discovered the nature of freedom in the midst of chains and the strength of character it takes to persevere through the bondage of the spirit and the law. Safety is a state of mind, a matter of faith." I enjoyed A Light in the Wilderness and recommend it to all who enjoy well-crafted historical fiction. Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
RGNHALL More than 1 year ago
It gives my heart a deep aching pain to know how women of color were treated in our country in its early years.  To think that Letitia (Tish) had no right to the land she and her "husband" owned is incredible.  She was not allowed to legally marry Davey Carson either.  The ceremony mattered to them but the law would not acknowledge it.   She worked so hard and endured a great deal as they traveled the Oregon Trail.   She helped her husband put up their cabin while caring for their newborn daughter.  She prayed the child would not be very dark-skinned.   Friends called her skin "pecan colored" and adored her.  Women also were almost forced to remarry as a matter of convenience when husbands died on the Oregon Trail.  Tish made friends with a Kalapuya Indian woman and Betsy also was treated with some mistrust.  I was simply amazed at the heartache of all those who chose to travel this journey to claim land in Oregon.   I don't blame them either as it was likely an important decision for the health and good of their families.   This book drew me in and touched my heart in an incredible way.   When I discovered it was based on a true story and read the factual account that Jane Kirkpatrick based her work of fiction on, I was amazed even further!   I rate this book 5 stars and highly recommend it to readers.   Lovers of historical fiction will particularly enjoy this book.   I received a free pdf version of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpratrick – A Book Review      The thing that most impresses me about Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing is her meticulous research and the care she takes with the authenticity of her story.  Any assumptions that she makes are logical and supported by research.  The author’s note in A Light in the Wilderness provides information allowing the reader to differentiate between known facts and details added for the benefit of the story.  Ms Kirkpatrick provides the logic behind assumptions that were made, supporting the added details.        In this story I learned about Oregon’s exclusion and lash laws.  At a time when existing and potentially new states had to decide whether to be slave or free states, these laws attempted to eliminate choosing by excluding people of color from the population.  While the laws were not consistently enforced and were repealed and reinstated in a variety of versions, there were times when people of color were to be lashed twice a year until they left the territory.  Oregon entered the Union as a free state, but had an exclusion clause in its constitution until 1926, although it was largely unenforced.        After moving from Kentucky where she was most likely a slave to Missouri where she was likely given her freedom, our heroine,  Letitia, married, in a private ceremony and without the benefit of a license or an official, Davey Carson, a white widower.  Through mutual consent and inspiration they traveled the trail to Oregon, enduring many hardships, and making a life together.  While Davey did not always understand Letitia’s needs, especially her need to feel safe as a free black woman, and was not always able to reconcile her needs with his own desires, he did truly care for her and probably took her opinions into account more than many husbands of the day.        Letitia was a light in the wilderness to many as she comforted and coached mothers as their babies entered this world, and as  their loved ones were birthed into the next.  As Letitia said, “Tending and mending used threads of many colors.”  Her candle was lit  from the flames of those who loved, accepted and befriended her, those who nurtured her from being someone who tried not to stand out, to one who wanted to fit in, to being someone with the courage and faith to stand up for what was right.        The most amazing transition in Letitia was in where and how she found freedom.  Initially she longed to be free from slavery.  That granted, she longed to be free of the fear of being placed back into slavery and of being oppressed by a small minded majority.  Later she found freedom in how she chose to look at life, how she chose to remember things, how she chose to forgive and show grace.   She found a type of freedom many would be blessed to find today.      For those readers who enjoy historical fiction, those who long to see good triumph over evil, and those who root for the underdog, I would highly recommend A Light in the Wilderness.  Letitia’s light will warm your heart.  I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing A Light in the Wilderness for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  
VicG More than 1 year ago
Jane Kirkpatrick in her new book “A Light In The Wilderness” published by Revell Books brings us into the life of Letitia. From the Back Cover:  Three very different women. One dangerous journey. And a future that seems just out of reach. Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause most 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 and 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. But 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 your heart and mind as you travel on the dusty and dangerous Oregon Trail into the boundless American West. Based on a true story. A historical novel is one thing, a historical novel based on a true story is something else all together. Ms. Kirkpatrick has done an incredible job of not only giving us details of life in the 1800’s she has given substantial life not only to one incredible woman but three in total. Up against incredible odds with almost everything against her Letitia goes against the system and, sometimes, wins. Yes, there is a wonderful story which is well worth reading, but it is the people who inhabit this book that make it really worth the read. Really well done! Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell Publishers.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”