Barbara's Reviews > The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg
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's review
Mar 13, 12

bookshelves: strong-women, writing
Read in March, 2012

Desperate to earn enough money to save the family farm in 1896, thirty-five-year-old Helga Estby comes up with the idea of walking across the country, starting near Spokane, Washington, and ending in New York City. Her daughter, Clara, accompanies her at the request of Clara's father who is worried about his wife's stamina. Dressed in their finest clothing and carrying satchels, the two set off across the country, intending to work in exchange for food and shelter along the way. Of course, they need to walk 25 miles each day if they are to reach their destination by the specified time. All sorts of adventures come their way--snow, flood, an encounter with a would-be bandit, even the hint of a possible love interest for Clara. The two women have never gotten along very well, possibly because they are both so strong-minded and independent, possibly because of a secret Helga has carried for much of her life. I loved much of the story until they neared New York, and then, it seemed to lose steam, much as Clara and Helga do. The secret Helga reveals is almost too much for Clara to bear, and the two return home, having accomplished their goal but having been cheated out of their money in a rather anticlimactic finish. I never really bought the character of newspaperman Charles Dore and Clara's fascination with him as contrasted with the stolid, reliable Erick who awaits Clara back home. While the determination and bravery of these two women can't be missed by even a casual reader of the book's pages, I wanted to know more about Clara and what happened to her next. How were her dreams realized? Having driven along much of the region where the two women walked, I had to shake my head in amazement at their daring, especially for those times. My interest also was heightened by the author's note about being Helga's great-granddaughter and continuing to work on the book even after 27 rejections.

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