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Follow the River

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  18,004 ratings  ·  2,242 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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Becky Wright No, it was extremely difficult for me to read the graphic parts. Also, hard even as an adult to place the violence in context for the era and to think…moreNo, it was extremely difficult for me to read the graphic parts. Also, hard even as an adult to place the violence in context for the era and to think of the broader picture of both cultures. (less)
Dana Library! That is how I got my copy. There is both a written and audio copy available and your local library may have both!

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Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,004 ratings  ·  2,242 reviews

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May 19, 2012 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
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is very good historical fiction. We are given a true story that captures our interest from page one. What happens is exciting and the story is hard to put down. Dialogs enliven events and capture temperaments of the people involved. These dialogs may be fictional, but they conform to what source material tells us about the respective characters' personalities. The book is both adventure story and character study.

What made this book so special for me is that I felt what Mary felt. When she
Anne Stevens
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harold Titus
Jun 12, 2013 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
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
Beth Ericksen
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 30, 2008 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!
Feb 06, 2008 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
Jun 12, 2016 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
Jeanette (Again)
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
Dec 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2009 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
Feb 12, 2011 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.
Jul 26, 2012 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
Jan 19, 2009 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),
Dec 29, 2013 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.
Feb 18, 2015 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
Diane Chamberlain
Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this for book club. I never would have picked it up on my own. The writing is not great, but the story (based on fact) is gripping and I'm still thinking about it a year after reading it.
Aug 19, 2010 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
Elizabeth Aldape
Jun 14, 2013 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
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing

I feel humbled by Mary Ingles' story. It is truly amazing. There were parts of the book I felt could have been shorter and almost gave it four stars because of that, but then I worried that somewhere out in the cosmos it would offend Mary Ingles....;). This story is truth that is more unbelievable than fiction. Fantastic.
Beverly Diehl
Before there was Cheryl Strayed's Wild, there was this story. In 1755 a young, married, and heavily pregnant woman was captured by the Shawnee Indians, with her two sons, and taken from Virginia to near present-day Cincinnati. She escaped her captors, and WALKED home, about a thousand miles, with another captive woman, arriving just this side of death, after about six weeks.

What I really liked about this story is the sensual details are deep but not excessive. I FELT hunger (enough to eat bugs),
Beth Sponzilli
Based on the true story of Mary Ingles survival and ordeal by Shawnee Indians in the Ohio river valley. The author gave every sordid detail of her captivity and journey hundreds of miles along the river. What is most impressive is her journey back. The raw and brutal landscape was described full in detail as she managed to escape. I found the end just going on forever until she found what she was after, otherwise I would have given it 5 stars. But that was just my opinion. I liked the afterword ...more
A.M.G. ☮Hippie/Fantasia☮
Actual Rating: 4.4 / 5

There are many things that can be said about this book, most of them having been elaborated on in reviews other than this one. Often times, I think that is an advantage of Goodreads--knowing that there are always other reviews to refer to in case the reader gets stuck or wishes to ease their curiosity. Heck, the ratings enough are a factor in deciding which books I will read!

This has been my first experience with Follow the River, and yet this book seemed worthwhile enough
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 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
Suzanne Moore
Jun 23, 2013 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
Gwen Haaland
A fantastic powerful ultimately inspiring "goodread." This story is based on extensive historical research about true events and people during the mid 1700s early westward expansion. (One notch above ordinary historical fiction.) A harrowing exciting tale that I'm sure will stay with me a long time.
I just found this at a library book sale for 50 cents and was not expecting much, but it turned out to be such a fascinating page turner that I completed this in little more than 24 hours.
I plan to r
Mar 02, 2008 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!
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Scott County Readers: Follow The River 1 4 Apr 02, 2020 10:07AM  
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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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