A Light in the Wilderness is an historical novel based on the true-life story of Letitia Carson, a former slave who made a new life for herself in Oregon. Known for fact-based historical novels from a Christian perspective, author Jane Kirkpatrick has continued her tradition with this newest title, published by Revell in the summer of 2014. Filled with details of both true and speculated events, this book would appeal to readers who love history, but are not necessarily looking for a riveting story.
The year is 1844 in Platte County, Missouri. Letitia is a freed slave, but her life is not much better than when she was ‘owned’. The trials facing a person of color seem unimaginable in this generation, but are described in detail as readers watch Letitia search for true freedom. As she wonders if life in Oregon would be any better, a strange series of events gives her the opportunity to find out – as the common-law ‘wife’ of Irish immigrant Davey Carson. Although Davey might mean to do well by Letitia, he very often comes across as harsh and unfeeling, not to mention blind to the treatment she receives at the hands of his adult son, among others. Simply put, Davey Carson is a difficult character with whom to sympathize.
As Letitia and Davey plan, prepare for, begin, and end their wagon journey west, we gain a deeper understanding not only for the brave families who left the known for the unknown, but also for the people who were different from the rest… People like Letitia. Written at a very slow pace, however, readers may begin to wonder if the wagon train will ever reach Oregon and, once there, if Letitia’s luck will ever change for the better. Many, many details, some mundane and others inappropriate for Christian Fiction, bog down the storyline even more.
Although Ms. Kirkpatrick has many fans who obviously enjoy her writing style, it might be difficult for those unfamiliar with her previous works to get used to it. At times her prose seems choppy and disconnected, making it difficult to understand, while at other times the numerous, dramatic similes and metaphors pull attention from the story to the words. While these peculiarities may prove annoying to readers looking for a relaxing escape, others may enjoy the challenge and unique voice it presents.
If you enjoy American history, especially in the era of wagon trains and homesteaders, or stories from the viewpoint of freed slaves, you will likely enjoy this book. Fans of biographical works will also be pleased. But for readers looking for an engaging story that moves faster than a snail’s pace, with realistic characters who are easy to identify with, I suggest looking elsewhere.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group”.
To learn more about this book, including questions and answers with Jane Kirkpatrick, click here.
To read an excerpt from the book, click here.