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Follow the River

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,212 Ratings  ·  1,800 Reviews
Mary Ingles was twenty-three, married, and pregnant, when Shawnee Indians invaded her peaceful Virginia settlement, killed the men and women, then took her captive. For months, she lived with them, unbroken, until she escaped, and followed a thousand mile trail to freedom--an extraordinary story of a pioneer woman who risked her life to return to her people.
Paperback, 406 pages
Published November 12th 1986 by Ballantine Books (first published 1981)
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Rachel Absolutely not. Not just the violence but some of the sexual feelings that are written as well. I wouldn't even have my 14 year old read this. It's…moreAbsolutely not. Not just the violence but some of the sexual feelings that are written as well. I wouldn't even have my 14 year old read this. It's quite graphic. I'd say this is more for a mature audience. Young adult to adult.(less)
Gayle Garriott Don't understand how this is supposed to be a true story. Mary went blind at a very young age
Follow the River by James Alexander ThomMrs. Mike by Benedict FreedmanHere be Dragons by Sharon Kay PenmanGreen Darkness by Anya SetonThe Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
The Unknown, Hidden Gems of Historical Fiction
1st out of 1,487 books — 1,241 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryThe Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Best Historical Fiction
181st out of 5,764 books — 22,143 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Anne Stevens
Feb 06, 2008 Anne Stevens rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth Ericksen
Apr 01, 2008 Beth Ericksen rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sunday, July 8, 1755, Draper's Meadow, Virginia. The Shawnee Indians launch a surprise attack on the settlement, killing most, but taking some prisoners, including a very pregnant Mary Draper Ingles and her two young sons. The captives are taken on a long journey to Shawnee Town, where they are somewhat assimilated into the community, Mary is sold as a slave and her sons are *adopted* by one of the Indian chiefs. Mary rebels at being another man's slave and yearns to escape and return home to he ...more
Nov 30, 2008 Katrina rated it it was amazing
It's gruesome at times, but such a powerful, realistic retelling of an incredible, true story. It really moved me and I'm sure I will read it again. Mary Ingles is one of my heroes now!
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
3 1/2 stars, really

The most amazing thing about this story is that it really happened. In 1755, Mary Ingles was captured by the Shawnee and taken to Ohio or thereabouts. After a couple of months, she escaped along with an old Dutch woman. With winter coming on and virtually no food/clothing/shoes, they made their way over very difficult terrain back to Virginia, where Mary was reunited with her husband. They traveled about 1,000 miles.
The only thing I couldn't figure out was how she managed this
Feb 06, 2008 Mike rated it it was amazing
I happened upon this book through the band in which I play. One of the songs we perform (written by one of my bandmates) was inspired by this book, which tells of the story of Mary Ingles (no relation to Laura Ingalls Wilder), who was kidnapped, along with her children, in a Shawnee indian raid on her village in Virginia in the late 1700's. She was taken to an area of Kentucky near Cincinatti, and, along with a Dutch woman named Gretel, escaped the Indian encampment (leaving her son and newly bo ...more
May 20, 2012 JaNel rated it did not like it
Shelves: novel
This book needed a lot of editing. It was repetitious and monotonous. Her voice did not seem very genuine. It's kind of hard to explain, but sometimes it just didn't seem like a woman's point of view. For example, she rarely/never? talked about the emotional relationship with her husband. Instead, even when she was starving and fighting exposure and exhaustion in the extreme, every time she thought of her husband, it was sexual. The way she immediately started fantasizing about Chief Wildcat was ...more
Harold Titus
Jun 12, 2013 Harold Titus rated it it was amazing
I chose to read "Follow the River" by James Alexander Thom not so much to be entertained and inspired by the story of Mary Ingles’s escape in 1755 from Indian captivity and her torturous return from the Ohio River to her family’s frontier settlement west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had read about her ordeal, it being a true story, years ago. I wanted to see how Thom dealt with what I anticipated would be two major difficulties: description of her surroundings and portrayal of her thoughts and ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Cheryl rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I absolutely loved the first 40% or so. It was full of action, suspense, drama and had me glued to the book. But then it plateaued hard. Like really hard. And stayed that way until the end. It was such an abrupt change I had a difficult time keeping my full attention on the story. So it started as a strong 5 star book then slowly dropped to a 4 and when the journey home made the book feel like it was 1,000 pages long I finally ended with 3 strong stars.
Jul 05, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it
This was a book, along with others by Thom, that I read decades ago, but I did remember parts of it and wanted to read it again. Happening very early, before the USA formed as a separate country- and with the protagonist, a woman- it was and is "different" to the more common period pieces.

It's brutal as life was. And it's fiction, but based on a real life woman's history of being kidnapped and then returning to her own people eventually by a long on foot trip down a 1000 mile river. This time I
Jul 12, 2015 Sherron rated it it was amazing
This was FANTASTC!! I stayed up to 3:30 am to finish it last night. Could not stop reading. I have a thing for this time period so I really liked it. What made it even better for me was that it was a true story. Unbelievable what the heroine went through.
Mar 18, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though this is listed as historical fiction, it is actually based on a true survival story of a woman named Mary Ingles (no, not Little House on the Prairie) who was captured by Indians in the 1700's. I read this for book club, plus, I have always wanted to read it.

Some stories take a while to set up, but not this one. From the first page I was pulled in. It started off perfectly and I wondered why I hadn't read it before now. The characters were easy to like, even Gretel. I was really cap
Aug 10, 2013 Kate rated it liked it
This book frustrated me- Although it is based on a true story, it is clearly written by a man. ..... There was and extreme lack of womanly/motherly emotion described in events that would more than evoke such feelings from the main character, and it left her(in my eyes) less realistic and relateable(despite the fact this really did happen)........My mother made me read this one, and although it got off to a decent start, I lost interest and desire to continue reading by about page 175, and felt a ...more
Elizabeth Aldape
Jun 18, 2013 Elizabeth Aldape rated it really liked it
This book was tragically beautiful. I felt so much pain for Mary and her other captives and almost couldn't bear the killing/burning scenes. Her decision to leave her children left me questioning what I would do. Would I have not looked at my newborn's face so I wouldn't create an attachment and could leave her behind? Would I have sacrificed my freedom and life to be with my children instead? Who knows. The journey home was beautiful, treacherous, and long, which describes how it felt to read i ...more
Feb 05, 2009 Jennifer rated it it was ok
I read this book from a recommendation of a book club and friend. Mary is a mother and is kidnapped
by Native Americans when whites were settling the West. It is a true story of a woman that truly survived what no human should ever have to survive. I wish I would have passed on this book because it seriously gave me nightmares. It was an amazing story of survival, I am pretty sure I would have died if put in that situation. I still get scary feelings (those of you have read it will understand),
Jul 13, 2014 Cphe rated it liked it
Amazingly based on a true character and events, this is the harrowing story of Mary Ingels who is kidnapped by the Shawnee along with her children and is forced to undertake a perilous journey through unchartered wildnerness to reach home.

It's is compelling reading in parts and the violence and grittiness of the times is well portrayed. Much of the heartache that Mary endured as a wife and mother wasn't adequately described. However her bravery and fortitude shone through.
Mar 18, 2008 Laura rated it liked it
I wish I had been warned about the first chapter. As a mother with children about the same age as Mary's, it was one of the most difficult things to read. I give this book four stars, because page after page of hunger, cold, and physical pain, became a bit tedious, so I skimmed through the last part. I wish that the author had spent more time on her adjustment back into her community and with her husband. Mary's story is remarkable, however, and definitely worth reading!
Sep 19, 2010 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
This novel is based on the true story of Mary Ingles, a young frontier woman living in western Virginia in the 1750s at the onset of the French and Indian War. Their settlement was at the far fringes of colonial development and vulnerable to attack from the Shawnee Indians. Many in her settlement were massacred, but Mary, very pregnant and about to give birth, her sister-in-law, her two young sons and another man from the community were kidnapped and taken deep into Shawnee territory well beyon ...more
Jul 26, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio-books
I listened to “Follow the River” by James Alexander Thom with my husband. We were both fascinated by this fictitious account of the kidnapping of Mary Draper Ingles by Shawnee Indians in 1755. Living in Draper’s Meadow, Virginia, Mary, possibly pregnant at the time, her two sons, Thomas (4) and George (2), and her sister-in-law Betty, and a male neighbor were ambushed and taken captive. Mary gave birth to a daughter as the Shawnees traveled with the captives along the Ohio River finally coming t ...more
I didn't finish this book. When I finally decided to put it down I just bawled like a baby. The author, in the first chapter, writes a descriptive scene of a baby being tossed around while an Indian in the middle tries to chop it with his ax, in the end, the Indian succeeds. If that wasn't bad enough, The main character lets her three children, including three week old baby be taken in by the culture of the Indians. As a mother who has lost a child, I found this extremely unrealistic and upsetti ...more
Mar 31, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I read this book not too long after it was first published in 1981, so I'll looking back a long way to review it.

The Indian attack and kidnapping was quite harrowing, but her attempt to survive after escaping the Indians by following the river was also pretty harrowing.

After reading the book, I did some research, and found out that it actually is possible for someone's hair to turn white "overnight." And the things that happened to her as she tried to stay alive and return to her family were eno
Nov 25, 2008 Crystal rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Read this for book club, so I plowed through it so I could have it finished by tomorrow night. Well, all I can say is WOW! I am exhausted from reading it. I couldn't put it down, but I also didn't want to pick it up. It is a very detailed description to a horrible nightmare. Once you get started on her journey home, you don't want to put the book down because you want her to get home so badly. I just hope we can read something uplifting and fun for book club soon!
Jul 01, 2015 puppitypup rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historic Fiction Based on a true story

Another difficult book to review. Is this a well written book? Yes, I would say so. It does seem to go on and on to the point of exhaustion, but what choice did the author have? Ultimately, the exhaustion and horror of reading this story is the only way we can come close to understanding what happened.

I don't want to say too much, because not knowing who survives is one of the stronger elements of suspense in this story. I will say that Gretel, hands-down, i
Beth Crawford
Apr 19, 2012 Beth Crawford rated it really liked it
This book is based on an incredible true story. I couldn't put it down!
Mar 31, 2010 AnnaMay rated it liked it
Wow. What can I say that won't diminish the impact of this story? Anything I write will just come out trite. I am so glad to have read the account of such a heroic, admirable woman.

As I read, I reflected on the instinct of survival that tends to emerge in some when they are faced with horrific challenges. The Holocaust came to mind. Why do some fight death and some give in or aquiesce? Mary Ingles dug deeper within herself than can be imagined. I would not have dreamed up this story as a possibi
♥ Marlene♥
May 28, 2013 ♥ Marlene♥ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, kindle

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What a great read and so unexpected. Never heard of this author before.
First of all I did not know what this book was about so did not know it was based on a true story.

So to me this book could have had many different scenarios and outcomes and I think that was why it was such a great read for me.

Yes it is cruel but so were the days back then and by the way read some true crime and you know people are still as cruel probably more so now.

There were a lot of scenarios in my mind thank
Aug 31, 2012 Lynn rated it it was amazing
What a story! This was a great book and what makes it even more so is that's based on the true story of Mary Ingles who was a frontier woman living in Virgina in 1755. Mary who was pregnant along with her two young sons, sister-in-law and a neighbor man are taken captive by Shawnee Indians after a horrific raid on their settlement leaving death and distruction. This is the story of Mary's strength, courage and her will to survive as well as the love for her husband as she struggles to return to ...more
Suzanne Moore
Jan 10, 2014 Suzanne Moore rated it really liked it
Mary Ingles was an amazing woman! I can't imagine living through what she endured. When she left her sons and newborn daughter in the care of savages my heart nearly broke. Escaping the Shawnee and finding her way home was a treacherous journey that seemed at any moment would be the death of her. Her traveling companion, an old Dutch woman named Gretel, was quite scary and gruesome. When Gretel began displaying cannibalistic behavior I thought about how desperate one must be to have such strong ...more
Oct 16, 2007 Buffer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
Based on the true story of Mary Draper Ingles from a early Virginia settlement in 1755. The settlement she lives in is attacked by Indians and she is taken hostage along with her two sons and sister in law.
An amazing story of true love, courage and sheer determination. She escapes the Indians and walks over 600 miles back to "her people" in early winter.
Some of the scenes where the Indians are attacking are horrific and almost make you sick. If you can get past that a little you are in for a
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Mrs. Anderson's E...: Follow The River 1 4 Mar 10, 2016 07:05PM  
Follow the River 10 97 Jan 03, 2014 03:19PM  
Appropriate for children? 2 18 Oct 22, 2013 01:27AM  
do you think you could do it? 9 33 Jun 10, 2013 06:03AM  
LIVING WHILE THE WEST WAS WON 5 41 Jul 03, 2011 08:17PM  
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James Alexander Thom (born 1933) is an American author, most famous for his works in the Western genre. Born in Gosport, Indiana, he graduated from Butler University and served in the United States Marine Corps. He is a former professor of journalism at Indiana University, and a contributor to the The Saturday Evening Post. His fifth wife, Dark Rain Thom was a member of the Shawnee United Remnant ...more
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