A SUDDEN COUNTRY ~Karen Fisher
Book group time again, we have read a delightful historic saga and a first novel. Our book was A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher which has been compared to Cold Mountain the blockbuster novel about the Civil War.
Our discussion was very lively overall the book was well received. Some liked the intense details others did not and the love story kept it moving forward.
Fisher took her grandmother’s journal of her trip at age 11 from Iowa to Portland, Oregon in the mid-1800s, researched the details and created a pleasant work of fiction. I think this genre is a grand way to learn history and I am sure this book is a tribute to Fisher’s family tree.
Emma Ruth, Fisher’s grandmother, made this journey with her mother, sister, stepsister, younger brother and baby sister because her stepfather, a surveyor, had been persuaded to journey to the Oregon Territories and assist in the building of community. He became one of the first judges in the territory.
A bit of historical perspective might be helpful, the powers to be in Eastern parts of the United States were thinking about adding the Oregon Washington territories to the Country. Washington was considered to be a prime location for military posts, natural resources (there must be coal and gold in those mountains), and to push the British soldiers and Hudson Bay Company north. The Oregon Territories were designed to build community and family farms. The fur traders and trappers were already hard at work taming the wilderness. The Catholic Church was providing medical outposts, trading venues, and ritual for the native tribes. The Spaulding and the Whitman missions and schools had already been established and their goal was to civilize the natives and the countryside. The destruction of these missions and the massacre is a part of this novel.
The intentions of the conspirators and the financial backers of these journeys are still readily apparent in these two states of the union.
Fischer’s descriptions of the women on this journey makes history come alive. Many in our group’s discussion could not believe how human the people were in this story. It was a difficult journey and there were maps and routes already created so this particular passage did not have to blaze the trail. This group ran out of food and water several times, encountered weather problems, and yet had time to create some celebrations and friendships along the way. Through the character of Lucy, Emma Ruth’s mother, Fisher was able to describe the emotions, the exhaustion; a full experience of life on a journey in a covered wagon. The writer created a realistic image of a woman’s life on such an arduous trek.
My children enjoyed reading historic fiction and used it quite often as a learning tool. Because of the romantic interludes in the story, I would have presented this book when they began to understand history around age 11. We read a number of historic fiction books out loud and had our own group discussions and because the romantic parts were not very graphic I believe they would have intrigued more talk about loving relationships than sexual encounters. I am sure that kids have seen much more on TV than what was presented in this book.
I would recommend this book for all who like a good historic fiction and especially for those who like stories about the pioneers and how cities as large as Portland, Oregon came to be. I think this book also would encourage others to write fiction from snippets of their family tree.
Our groups discussions included Hawaii, airplane travel and rave reviews for Gloria’s Tortilla Soup! Oh Yes! And the huge windstorm which made us all powerless for hours and the earthquake which shook us into morning!
My rating for this book is 4 ladybugs
Do you like reading historic fiction? Do you have a favorite? Would a family journal intrigue a story for you? Do you ever read books aloud as a family? One of the best parts of this book was our discussion and all the different opinions; would your book group choose a book like this?
Looking forward to your comments