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A SUDDEN COUNTRY ~Karen Fisher

old wagon

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 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

RELATED READING:
Hannah Coulter
American Wife
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series
The Help
The Highest Tide

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16 Responses to “A SUDDEN COUNTRY ~Karen Fisher”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I would more than likely love this book. Cold Mountain is one of my favorites. I really like it when a writer can make me see the movie in my head. Of course then, if the movie is actually made by someone else, as in Cold Mountain, I’m inevitably disappointed. :)

    I love historical fiction, but lately, I’ve back-burnered it for biography. Nora Ephron says, “Why would you write fiction when reality is so much more interesting?” or something to that effect. I got on the kick when we went to Alaska and I decided to read books about Alaskan women in history. Fascinating individuals, and kicked off our blog several years ago with the reviews.

    I love that you do this, too.
    .-= Betsy Wuebker´s last blog ..European Christmas Markets on the Bucket List =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    I very much enjoyed Cold Mountain and I had to keep putting this book down to go to work! It was not as intense but a very good story and perspective.

    I think I read it all – biography is great too. I know several of those Alaska women’s books too – I am trying to think of the one who is so funny that I read several years ago out loud to my mum

    Thank you for your kind words…love to get folks reading

  2. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    I don’t really read historic fiction. However, your book reviews are always so beautifully written, they make me want to read everything!
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Your Life- As It Is Right Now- Forever Do You Take This Deal =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Vered,
    I think your girls would love this story too – it is a fun way to learn history and think about all the things, in this case, women went through.

    I enjoyed reading it and was happy I live now and did not do this trek myself.

    Ah the writer of this blog is doing what she set out to do – get folks reading :)

    Thank you

  3. Dot Says:

    I don’t really read historic fiction either, but when a small amount of history is included in the other types of novels I read, I like that. You do a great job on the reviews, though, and the book group must be fulfilling.

    Patricia Reply:

    Dot,
    This one made me feel much better about my own life and living now…and covered a lot of women’s feelings and those expectations in that time period.

    I think I am joining another book group in the new year too – this is a group that really loves to discuss and wrestle with books…YES! So I will have a fun read group and a high powered group….wonder if I can get any of them to do science fiction???

    I am working too at getting some in real time people in my life and the book groups are working.

    Thanks for you good words.

  4. Sara Says:

    Patricia — While not a big fan of historical fiction, you do make this book sound very interesting. I will look for it next time I visit the library.

    Also, it sounds like you’ve had a very busy time lately…earthquakes, windstorms…wow…I hope things have calmed down weatherwise:~)

    Patricia Reply:

    I think this book was quite a nice read because a woman was truly the main character and she was thinking through all the hard work and the experiences of her life as they trudged along.

    Still having wind and rain and the lights keep blinking, now they are saying maybe snow for this weekend – very exciting and wet time of it…making lots of work for this settler!

    I will come by and check out your spot soon…I am working on getting caught up with the end of my short term job. Thanks for your good words.

  5. Jannie Funster Says:

    Four ladybugs — great read, I think!

    I am a big history buff, yes, was my minor. But these days I love reading blogs like this, instead of books. So much fun to interact with you all.

    And alas, my gal won’t let me read aloud to her any more. Likes to read her books silently. My baby is growing up.

    Snow this weekend for you? Stay warm and cozy. We had our first light frost here last night. Brrr.

    xoxo
    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..My Lucky Blue Hat =-.

    Patricia Reply:

    Jannie,
    I think Kelly might like this book when she reaches middle school or junior high….

    They do grow up.

    We are having quite the weather and I am having to keep going out in it to clean storm drains – I am feeling like a big drip!

    I do not think we will get snow, but the weather folks think we will, it is not dropping down low enough and the Sound water is still too warm….at least 35’F

    I am still catching up after my month of working so will be over soon to read your latest delight

  6. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. I sure do love reading historical fiction – especially if it’s well researched .. even if delving into personal history as Fischer has done: sounds very interesting .. especially if you all found the characters so personable in today’s age.

    Thanks Patricia .. great read .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Hanging Hooke =-.

  7. Patricia Says:

    Hilary,
    It was a good read and well thought out – adding the love story, I think will get more folks to read it.

    It is good to know the shaping forces…or I understand history is doomed to repeat itself ! We would not want that!!!

  8. Mark Brown Says:

    Sounds interesting, thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Reply:

    It was a good read – I could see it as a movie too. I learn a great deal about people from reading books – especially when some characters are created from the author’s ideas.

  9. Arts Web Show Says:

    Sounds like a fantastic story

    Patricia Reply:

    I think this book would make a great movie and we all like to know about our own history