I quickly grabbed a book from the local public library this weekend that I thought might interest me. It is "West against the wind" by Liza Ketchum Murrow.
It looked similiar to several books I've read in the past year that deal with young women during the American pioneer era of the mid-West.
This book tells the fictional story of Abby Parker and her family as they journey from Independence Missouri to California in 1850 to meet up with their father who has been hit by "gold fever". Along the way, they meet up with a young man, Matthew Reed who confides to Abby a terrible family secret.
The novel explores several themes including the California Gold Rush and its impact on families of the period, the hardship these pioneers endured especially the women), the fallen young woman in society, and the coming of age of a young teenage girl.
I found the story riveting at times and also very sad with its graphic descriptions of the monotony of walking across the open prairie, the greed of men taken by "gold fever", the struggles of Abby to grow more independent and the love within families and also that shown to total strangers. The author effectively portrays to the reader the determination people of this era must have had to open up the far west of the continent.
I found this book in the children's section of my local public library, but because of the coming of age issues as well as other issues dealt with in the book, I feel it's better suited to the YA shelf. Although the descriptions of the Abby's reactions to the physical changes of puberty, marriage and childbirth are tame by comparison to current novels, I feel teen readers would probably identify more readily with her reactions than the younger reader. Some of Abby's negative reactions towards the physical changes she experiences are not resolved outwardly in the novel, although the reader is left with the impression near the end of the book, that she is becoming more confident and comfortable as a young woman.
West against the wind
Liza Ketchum Murrow
Holiday House New York, 1987