From the bestselling author of Prayers for Sale, an inspiring celebration of sisterhood on the perilous wagon-trail west
"If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?"
It's February 1852, and all around Chicago Maggie sees the postings soliciting "eligible women" to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter and several painful secrets, she has nothing to lose.
So she joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. None of them are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek through the high plains, mountains, and deserts. Or for the triumphs of finding strengths they did not know they possessed. And not all will make it.
As Maggie gets to know the other women, she soon discovers that she’s not the only one looking to leave dark secrets behind. And when her past catches up with her, it becomes clear a band of sisters will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own.
Award-winning author SANDRA DALLAS was dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. Sandra’s novels with their themes of loyalty, friendship, and human dignity have been translated into a dozen foreign languages and have been optioned for films.
A journalism graduate of the University of Denver, Sandra began her writing career as a reporter with Business Week. A staff member for twenty-five years (and the magazine’s first female bureau chief,) she covered the Rocky Mountain region, writing about everything from penny-stock scandals to hard-rock mining, western energy development to contemporary polygamy. Many of her experiences have been incorporated into her novels.
While a reporter, she began writing the first of ten nonfiction books. They include Sacred Paint, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Western Heritage Wrangler Award, and The Quilt That Walked to Golden, recipient of the Independent Publishers Assn. Benjamin Franklin Award.
Turning to fiction in 1990, Sandra has published eight novels, including Prayers For Sale. Sandra is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award for New Mercies, and two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award, for The Chili Queen and Tallgrass. In addition, she was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Assn. Award, and a four-time finalist for the Women Writing the West Willa Award.
The mother of two daughters—Dana is an attorney in New Orleans and Povy is a photographer in Golden, Colorado—Sandra lives in Denver with her husband, Bob.
I couldn’t help but like these women from the get go. The women who took up the opportunity when they read this:
“If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?”
Not all of the women, however, were looking for husbands. One was trying to escape an abusive husband who may or may not be alive. One was trying to forge her own way when held by societal views in the 1850’s that women can’t own land even though she did. Another was escaping physical and sexual abuse. These women who were told what there place was, with no one to turn to for help in their circumstances, hoped that leaving for California would be their answer. It’s a rough road for these thirty seven women traveling the hard road, walking. The wagons carried supplies, pulled by oxen, driven by the women who walked. Accompanied by a minister and his wife as well as the wife’s minister brother, they face hardship, death, loss, warrior Native Americans. Anything that could go wrong, of course went wrong, and it felt like a bit much at times and there were times I couldn’t help but wonder if this was worth it for them, but we are frequently reminded of the reasons why they left Illinois for California, as they encounter their past along the way.
The loyalty and concern for each other that grew every day they were on the journey was heartfelt. They would lie to protect each other, even the minister’s wife, and they would kill to protect each other if they had to. They became a band of sisters, a family. I became invested in these strong, courageous women of conviction and was moved by their journey for a better life.
I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.
In 1852, Maggie decides to respond to a broadsheet advertising for strong and good Christian women to embark on a 2,000-mile journey to find a husband in California. Running from her past in Chicago, Maggie hopes no one will recognize her along the way. Shortly after they begin their travels, the group of women led by two pastors experience countless hardships, loss, and sacrifice.
"Sometimes the unknown ahead is preferable to the known we have left behind."
Misogyny, disparity, and injustice are revolving attributes surrounding the myriad of stories told by women that Maggie encounters on the Overland Trail. We see a period of inequality for women that often approved of domestic abuse if the reasoning was passable; for example, if the woman said something the male did not like.
“Women are not as smart as we are. Who knows what will turn their heads. They can be foolish.”
"Why was it all right for him to beat her so savagely but wrong for her to fight back?"
Thematically, the Overland Trail represents a multitude of symbolic comparisons. As the story progresses, such as life, values and priorities of the women on the journey begin to change based on new experiences and developing circumstances.
Chapter by chapter, history is felt during the excursion in the setting, the environment, and the harrowing situations the women face along the way.
"The devil designed the trail. You must travel through hell to reach California."
The language was appropriate for the time period, though sometimes dry. I did not feel too emotionally attached to the characters, and think maybe it was because there were so many women involved in the story that it was hard to attach myself. I could relate to them, but I couldn't connect with them. There were some gripping twists along the way, but I also felt like some of the story could have been condensed.
My technical notes: The first 13% sets the foundation for Maggie’s background, the qualifications for signing up, and prerequisites for the journey. The journey to California then begins at chapter 4 (or 13%) and continues until 94% of the book. Thereafter, the last 4% of the story (94-98%) loose ends are tied up. The chapters are told chronologically by date, and the dates range from February 22, 1852- September 30, 1852. On their journey they stop at a fair number of landmarks and notable sites along the way including but not limited to Independence Rock, the City of Rocks, Gold Rush Alley, Ft. Kearny, Ft. Laramie, and the Sierras.
3.5+ stars- Overall, I liked the novel and think the story of what emigrants encountered on the western trails that is fictionally mirrored through Maggie’s tale is astounding. I recommend this to advocates of feminism and 19th century historical fiction readers. Thank you to St. Martin's Press, NetGalley, and Sandra Dallas for this copy. Opinions are my own.
The trails western emigrants took during this period. In this novel, the women did traverse on the Mormon Trail and the California Trail which can be seen on the map below.
A partly sentimental rating and rating, because I absolutely came to admire and adore these women. Twenty seven women, leave from Chicago to head to the good fields of California to become the brides of men they haven't yet met. They all have different reasons to leave the lives they are currently living, some we don't find out until later in the story. As we go along with the women on their journey we, with them, encounter danger, pasts catching up with the wagons, illnesses, Indians, and deaths.
I loved watching as these women bonded, became a family, each other's support systems. They grew, became more confident, took on more responsibility and became people who knew they could take control of their own lives. The two preachers who accompanied them also changed and their admiration for the pluckiness of these women was wonderful to see.
The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the cover. It is absolutely gorgeous and suggests a sweeping epic inside. When I saw the page count I was a little perplexed at how a story of this nature (a group of women traveling on the Overland Trail from Chicago to California during the 1850s) could be so short. Still, this isn't a topic I know anything about and I wanted to learn more. Plus, the story sounded so interesting and it's unique! The beginning was good enough, but it quickly dissolved for me after about the first 60 pages. What follows is my very disappointed feelings...
There are a sea of four and five star reviews for this book so I clearly am in the minority, but I was very disappointed and I hope you will consider my review and not immediately discount it. The author's note at the end helped clarify one point for me (the length), but it really seemed that this novel was chopped up so much that it took a lot of the strength out of it. It also seemed very rushed and due to the nature of breaks in time I lost my emotional connection with the characters. The story mentioned several times of the bond that formed between all of these women, but I felt no connection to them or could understand that bond. Yes, they went through terrible things over and over again, but I didn't feel it. So when the story progresses and challenging times occur with likely injuries/sicknesses/deaths - I was left mostly unbothered. That's a problem.
My second concern is something else mentioned in the author's note, but the author clearly doesn't care about it given her response. The pattern throughout this novel of men being abusers, drunks, rapists, etc. was confounding. There was little to any balance and it almost became comical at just how terrible these men were.
I have never read a Sandra Dallas book before (though knew of her as an author) and would still try another book. If you're on the fence about reading this, I encourage you to give it a try. As previously mentioned, almost no one agrees with me on these points so I probably in a room all by myself.
Thank you to Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Sandra Dallas for the opportunity to read this book and provide an honest review.
I’ve always been fascinated by the western trails and learning more about the life and times that those people lived. When I saw this book on NetGalley, I really wanted it and was excited to get into it once I was approved.
I’ve never read anything by Sandra Dallas, so I didn’t know what to expect. The book was very easy to read and I liked her writing style.
Unfortunately, I just didn’t absolutely love it. While I know times were much different back then, there was just too much death in this book. Animals and people - death after death in every chapter. I expected some, but constantly reading about it was just depressing. Lots of triggers too including physical abuse, sexual abuse (including children) and rape.
Lots of others adored this book. Therefore, if you’re considering it because this topic interests you, please read it. I tend to be a mood reader and it’s very possible that I just wasn’t in the mood for something like this.
I did really enjoy the ending. I liked reading about what happened to the women and learning about their lives long after their arrival in California.
Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Sandra Dallas for my advanced copy to read and review.
Westering Women by Sandra Dallas is an enjoyable historical fiction account of forty-four women, one four year-old girl, and two ministers that undertake the journey from Chicago to Goosetown, California. The women are search for husbands in gold country; or are they?
Sandra Dallas does a great job of painting the picture of both the women as well as the lands and people they encounter along the way. It is 1852 and there are hardships and triumphs along the way as they cross rivers, high plains, mountains and deserts. Who will survive? What are their secrets? Do they find strength or do they falter? Maggie Kaiser is our main character and the author does a great job in developing her character.
The plot was heartbreaking at times and heart warming at other times. The prose was expressive and skilled. Dallas did a great job in researching this era to make it realistic. The story includes the themes of loyalty and friendship as well as suffering and heartbreak.
I recommend this novel to those that enjoy historical fiction.
I won a copy of this ARC in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads, the publisher, St. Martin's Press, and the author, Sandra Dallas, for this opportunity to provide my honest review.
I was so excited to be given the chance to read Westering Women by Sandra Dallas. I live in Australia, for years I have looked at her books on Amazon and I have never had the opportunity to read one.
Chicago February 1852, Maggie Kaiser reads a notice about a wagon train leaving soon, it's traveling to Goosetown in California. She's a struggling young mother, with a young daughter and takes in sewing to make ends meet. Maggie joins forty three other women who are looking for a new start, they begin the long grueling 2,000 mile journey west where there's a need for women who want to get married and start families. The women aren't prepared for the hardships they will face on the trail as they travel through the high plains, mountains, and dry deserts.
Due to the distance they need to not over burden the oxen, they can only take with them the necessities such as food, cooking utensils, clothing, tents and they also have to walk! They need to take turns cooking over the open fire, collecting fire wood, getting water, looking after the animals, they also need to learn to defend themselves and shoot a rifle.
As they travel west they soon notice a trail of discarded belongings from previous travelers and so many lonely graves. They need to cross rivers, endure traveling in all kinds of weather, some days it's stinking hot, others its freezing cold and raining. The constant worry about danger, Indians and illness takes it's toll. Soon all the women are sun burnt, exhausted and tired of eating the same bland food.
As Maggie gets to know her fellow travelers she soon discovers that she’s not the only one looking to leave her past behind and they all have secrets. During the journey the women become friends, they share a strong bond, they do things that most men would struggle to do and they also have to deal with the harsh reality of how dangerous it is.
I loved Westering Women, it's a brilliant story about women traveling west by the overland trail, their courage, determination and spirit. I gave the book 5 stars, I shared my review on Goodreads, Twitter, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and my blog. https://karrenreadsbooks.blogspot.com/
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review
Margaret(Maggie Kaiser) and her daughter,Clara need to stay as far away from abusive husband and father, Jesse. But this is Chicago in 1852 and what can a woman do? But in Chicago there are adverts that are encouraging the women in the East to migrate to California to marry. Maggie finds herself attending the information meeting and befriends Mary. Soon they find themselves joining the wagon train of women and it soon becomes clear that Maggie isn't the only person that is running away.
I have never been able to resist a wagon train story and I have enjoyed a few of Sandra Dallas's books. The trials and tribulations of women setting out to travel across America's terrain is a very inspiring story. There is brutality, death, and a testing of faith as the women have to learn to work together to reach their goal. I know that I have said this more than a few times before but favorite book of 2019
Goodreads review published 05/11/19 Publication Date 07/01/20
Good people are like candles; they burn themselves up to give others light.
Sandra Dallas presents a thought-provoking novel encompassing a very different Western movement in America. It's February of 1852 in Chicago with fierce winds propelling off the lake and bone-chilling rain soaking the brave souls who venture out onto the wooden sidewalks and muddy terrain.
Maggie clutches the hand of her four year old daughter and reads the bulletin tacked to the outside of a meeting hall. It's an ad calling for good Christian unmarried women with high moral character to make the trip to Goosetown, California. The gold fields are filled with men who made the prior journey and are seeking wives for this community. Two ministers will accompany the women on this long and arduous trip over land treacherous by Nature and, moreso, by the unknown.
Dallas will introduce us to these women who will bring the basics of necessities along with them. But we will come to find that they all carry the oppressive weight of their secrets and their past lives. Prior incidents will never stay buried in Chicago, but will accompany them on the harsh trails step by step leering in the shadows.
As the journey begins, the women feel out of place with one another and react to the hardships as individuals. The time period never prepared women to work together as a productive unit. As the journey progresses, they are forced to rely on the strength of the group made up of varying untapped skills and talents. I almost shook my head to think that times haven't changed much. Women still have difficulty putting aside the power of one to the power of many.
Westering Women is a deep character study of the human spirit under the most dire of circumstances. It shines a light on the dynamics of bravery and self-sacrifice that one can only imagine during the Western expansion.....with some mighty female voices in the mix.
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest opinion. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and to Sandra Dallas for the opportunity.
Fantastic read! It has everything but most of all beautiful women headed west to paradise and men. Those that survived became independent women who realized they don’t need a man! They will choose what they want including who and IF they want a man. Lots of sadness, lots of adventure, some death but most of all a whole lot of loyal survival! In the end 37 women to 2 men and a baby…
In February 1852, notices are posted all over Chicago: "If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?" It sounds perfect to Maggie, so she and her little girl sign up, along with 43 other women, for the California-bound wagon train led by two ministers. Maggie isn't looking for a husband, though—she has other reasons for wanting to leave Chicago.
Of all the people traveling together, the main players in the story are a single dozen: Maggie, Mary, Sadie, Bessie, Evaline, Penn, Lavinia, Winny, and Dora, as well as ministers Joseph and William, and William's wife, Caroline. Other character's are mentioned in passing when the story demands it, and serve more as window dressing than actual members of the wagon train.
Having skimmed through early reviews posted on Goodreads, it's clear that I had a markedly different reaction to the story than other readers of this book. As such, the thoughts shared in this review are definitely going to be in the minority—because I didn't like this book at all.
The beginning was promising enough—what was Maggie so afraid of? Why did she need to leave Chicago? I was eager to find out, but was somewhat surprised that those answers were given in chapter three. So much for milking the suspense, but okay... it created a bond between two of the women, so it served that purpose well. Maggie now has an ally on the wagon train. Let the journey begin! I was excited to see the descriptions of the life on the trail, and felt a sense of trepidation, knowing without the summary telling me so that some of the women weren't going to make it.
I expected events of epic proportion, with descriptions so vivid as to make me feel I was traveling across endless prairie, mountain, or desert right alongside them. I wanted to feel their hopes and dreams as if they were my own, and have my heart shattered when devastation struck. I wanted to feel their despair when someone was lost, and I wanted to celebrate in the triumph of those who made it.
None of that happened.
Instead of the sweeping saga I expected, I got something more akin to historical fiction lite. All the elements were available, but what could have been grand was a watered down version so simplified as to be completely and utterly boring. The characters were two-dimensional, and even though I wanted to, it was impossible to take them seriously. On three different occasions, things became known about certain travelers that should have gotten them booted from the group immediately; instead, all would be forgiven within moments and the group would keep on traveling. I felt this simply wasn't believable, given the social mores of the time, and made revelations of those secrets completely pointless. Why did they exist, if there was no price to pay? Drama for drama's sake?
I've spoken before about the importance of being shown something in a story, rather than told, and how—in my opinion—telling can completely ruin a story. She did this, then he did that, so she did something else, and.... no. Just NO. Bring me along with you on a wondrous adventure, don't just tell me about it.
A story like this inevitably deals with loss of life, and when it's done well, it has a gut-wrenching impact on the reader. Unfortunately, each death (or dangerous moment, for that matter) was too easily predictable. I had certain members pegged for death practically from the start, and wasn't surprised when it happened. Certain losses should have felt like a crushing blow, but when the people directly affected by that death essentially shrug their shoulders and move on within a few days... what, I'm supposed to care, when they barely did? And how can I be upset about a dangerous thing happening, when it's so easily overcome in often-beneficial ways?
The end of the book began with the group days away from the end of their journey, where a predictable thing happened that had an equally predictable result. What remained of the group arrived at their destination, and foreseeable things happened. An epilogue followed, the book finally came to an end, and I deleted it from my Kindle with a sigh of relief that it was over.
I don't know. A lot of people loved this book, so maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm a historical fiction snob, who has exceedingly high expectations for books in this genre, and I'm too easily dissatisfied when those expectations aren't met.
Or maybe... it's not me at all. Maybe I have completely reasonable expectations of quality that simply were not fulfilled in this book. Maybe this book had the potential to be outstanding, and only achieved mediocrity.
Fascinating story! It’s hard to imagine a wagon train full of women in the 1850’s heading across the west to California. Because of an advertisement wanting eligible women, a group of 44 ladies join in on the journey west. Each one seeking a better life, many leaving behind painful memories and terrible secrets, they are willing to face the hardships of the journey in hopes of a brighter future.
Maggie, a young mother with a 4 year-old daughter, is escaping an abusive husband. In fact, Maggie is not even sure he’s alive. If he is dead, she fears she will be accused of his murder.
Mary, a large woman that is disrespected by her family, is looking to leave and make her place in the world—a place where she is valued and loved. Another woman is looking to escape a life of prostitution and another wants to find her brother who is working in California. These are just some of the reasons the women are willing to risk such a dangerous journey.
They set out with two ministers and a team of men hired to do the work women are believed unable to do, such as taking care of the oxen, driving the wagons and making repairs along the way. By the end of the journey, only the two ministers and the women arrive at their destination.
Along the way, a few lives were lost and some harrowing incidents occurred, but in spite of all the adversity they endured, the women were able to work together, support each other and keep their spirits up in order to reach their goals.
I was riveted by the story and look forward to reading more of Sandra Dallas. My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
I don't read a lot of westerns, but this novel is fantastic! Thanks to goodreads for sending this book! A group of women, led by two ministers, head to California from the east coast on the pretense of seeking husbands in 1852. Along the was there are deaths and many trials to be gone through while the women grow stronger and more confident in themselves. I would rate this novel 4.5 stars and highly recommend this to all women.
VERY UNPOPULAR REVIEW BELOW [in light of all the 4 and 5 star reviews I have read]
I need to preface this review with this - this book COULD have been a great book. It has the bones of an excellent, fantastic, edge-of-your-seat, epic read. I was expecting this as it is a book about women who CHOOSE to make the trek across the wilds of America and the Sierra Nevada's to California and a better life [though I am unsure how they thought living in a "gold" town with rough men as their husbands would be a better life, but I digress] and what I got was much, much, less. And according to the author [at the end of the book] all of THIS was what she had set out to do and due to others [the editors - something she was not happy about, you can tell], had to both cull and edit this book multiple times and so instead of a sweeping epic, we end up with this.
This book was just so meh. I read a lot [A LOT] of historical fiction [AND nonfiction] that is amazing and epic and this just was not it. You only meet 7 of the 40 or so women who start the trip [I think they end up with 34-35 at the end, maybe less due to people leaving the trail and death] and with that number, you don't truly get to *KNOW* any of the women. Not even Maggie, who clearly is the main character in this book. I feel like we only get a superficial look at these women and have no idea just where they get their strength and tenacity to even leave Chicago, much less make a trip like this, and because of this, there is really no connection at all. There is some sympathy for Maggie and what she has endured at the hands of Jesse, but it is really hard to connect with her because the story is told so briefly and you don't really get to know anything else about her. It is like her life didn't begin until she married Jesse and the abuse started.
And speaking of abuse...men, in general [with the exception of the two preachers, and even then, one truly struggles with his own demons], come off V E R Y badly in this book. Almost all the men are just horrible. They beat, rape, kill, chase women OR are polygamous and want to add to their household [they spend time in Salt Lake City]. Very few of the men mentioned in here come off well, WITH the exception of the men who are waiting for them in the gold fields in California [because, of COURSE, they are all okay and none of them would rape, beat or try to kill their wives ] and again, in the acknowledgments, the author says she was told that all the men in the book were bad and her response was "So?". Clearly, the author has a problem with men in general, and while you see that in minor ways in her other books [and I am not saying that all men are angels, but nor do I believe that every man they met on this trip would have been a murdering rapist either], it really comes out in this book and brings another level of falseness to the story [this goes along with several other things that do not ring true throughout this story - the trip down the pass comes to mind. I do not for one minute believe that women could not have done that - I am a woman and I know what happens when you are in a corner and you HAVE to accomplish something, but the level of exhaustion that they were at [and that is when mistakes are made, all you have to do is read a nonfiction account of a trip like this to know this] and the lack of food and water that they are experiencing, makes what they did even harder to believe. And !
The whole book wavered between 2 and 3 stars the whole read, but as I am writing this review, I realized, that it is absolutely a 2 star read [for me]. Which is hugely disappointing, because it could have been a 5 star read. Makes me wonder what the original book actually looked like before the edits.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I started Westering Women very early this morning after a long night of no sleep. I have read others by this author and enjoyed them, so I thought I would also enjoy this book.
But I have gone through four chapters at this point and I have decided to give up, at least for now. I cannot help comparing the story with the movie Westward The Women, starring Robert Taylor. That is one of my favorite films ever, and of course when I began the book I was comparing the two stories.
Very unfair to the book, because the movie in my opinion was much better from the very beginning, but I couldn't keep myself from judging.
And I also couldn't get interested in main character Maggie, at least not enough to walk across country with her. She was running from an abusive husband and what might happen along the trail seemed very obvious to me.
I will keep the book for a time and maybe Someday I will manage to get further along in the story and see if what I think will happen actually does. But meanwhile I am marking this book a DNF after four chapters.
This story had all the hallmarks of something I should have enjoyed: a group of women traveling west in the early 1850s to marry men from the California gold rush. It was suppose to be a marriage of convenience trope but on a grander scale.
I remembered liking Ms. Dallas’ The Diary of Mattie Spenser when I read it in 2013. I knew the author wrote with a good sense of place, a smattering of reality and was able to twist the readers’ emotions. I thought it was a moving and poignant piece of historical fiction with a bittersweet aura.
At times I thought the writing was awkward. It made some of the passages hard to follow -OR- occurrences were explained too easily. Just about everyone, including the main protagonists, came from a dysfunctional background. I should have felt empathy but the characters were two-dimensional: flat. There was lots of telling, but not showing with a few moments of verbal shock. There were a couple of incidents I wasn’t prepared for and more importantly, did not want to know. At this point, I should have marked the story ‘dnf’ but I thought things would improve. Lastly, except for the two preachers that started this mission, there were almost no admirable male characters; several were downright evil. By the end, I was in a literary limbo.
In 1852 Chicago, Maggie is running from trouble. She may have killed a man and authorities are looking for her. The fact he deserved it doesn't matter. Knowing she needs to protect herself and her young daughter, she decides to set out with a wagon train headed for California. Most of those travelling with the train are women seeking husbands. There aren't many women in California...so they are all hoping to start new lives. Some of them might not survive the 2,000 mile trek, but all are willing to risk it. Along the way, they form strong bonds and friendships as they brave the weather and wilderness together.
This is the first book by Sandra Dallas that I have read. I liked the characters and the plot. I have always marveled at the strength and perseverance of those who moved west in the early 1800s. This tale definitely brings to light the struggles, dangers and physical challenges of a wagon train journey to California. The plot centers on the characters and their thoughts/emotions as they trek across the country. The trip is physically and mentally taxing, presenting challenge after challenge. From the weather to illness, the women learn to face each new situation with courage and determination.
I enjoyed this book! I will definitely be reading more by this author.
**I voluntarily read an advanced review copy of this book from St. Martin's Press. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
A fantastic historical novel of women crossing the Overland trail to California from Chicago in the 1850s. This is a terrific period piece, a moving novel and a gentle feminest manifesto. The reader will engage with and cheer for these diverse women (all running to something or away from something?) and feel the heat and grit of the trail, the potential danger lurking around every bend, and the deep bond the women made surviving the trials along the way. Great characters, and compelling personal stories; hard to put down!
WESTERING WOMEN by Sandra Dallas gives fans of pioneer stories many of the details we love, but lacks the emotion I crave. I was torn throughout the novel between loving that it was the unusual story I wanted, but without the passion I craved.
I love a wagon train story, especially one that’s mostly women. In this book, all the characters are interesting with something to hide, or a reason to run to California for a new life. These ladies want husbands, but the men don’t necessarily know they’re coming. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen when the women reach the Gold Rush with so many men to choose from.
I’ve loved this author’s previous work, so it surprised me when I didn’t feel as attached to this one. The writing seemed clunky and meandering, without a clear purpose. Sometimes, it was descriptive without much dialogue. Then when it was full of dialogue, it seemed to lack the description it needed. Many chapters felt unfinished, leaving me with questions.
I could easily overlook those quirks, but when tragedy occurs and I felt no emotion, I knew something was wrong. By 50%, I didn’t connect to the characters, which should have occurred by that point in the story. I liked them well enough, as well as the story, but it didn’t affect me emotionally as it should for the situation.
That didn’t stop me from reading – it just struck me as odd. The depth of emotion was lacking and the only way I can describe it is that the characters seemed two-dimensional. Which is sad, because this really is a good story. It needs fine-tuned and beefed-up to give it the life it deserves. Instead of 336 pages, I would have preferred another 100 pages to develop the characters more in depth.
I feel bad rating this story so low because it’s quite evident that the author put in the effort with research, as well as its creation. But something happened along the way. The life feels edited out of it. Or, in its paring down, the characterization wasn’t developed. I loved that there were a lot of characters, so I didn’t feel that was a problem. They just needed more page time.
This book has so much potential and it’s not a terrible read, because I wouldn’t continue reading if it was, but it could be so much more. Having fully enjoyed TRUE SISTERS by Sandra Dallas, and giving it my highest rating, I realized this book just isn’t as grand in the telling. It lacks emotion and depth.
In the end, I felt as if the characters resembled chess pieces on a board, moving through obstacles to reach their destination, but without the richness of experiencing life in full color.
On a positive note, it is an epic adventure. We get a thorough catch-up at the end so we know how all the women’s lives turned out. I liked that – something that’s not included in enough novels. Also, it’s a good women empowerment story, proving their strength and resiliency in a time of struggle.
Even though the women start this journey in hopes of finding husbands, there is very little romance. That said, many do find their version of HEA, so the reader is gratified with their version of happiness.
For those who love a wagon train adventure, this book has an unusual twist giving it a mail-order bride slant without known husbands, and eventually, mostly a woman-powered accomplishment. Even with the recognizable romance mail-order theme with a twist, this book should be categorized historical fiction and not romance for the strictest of romance readers.
WESTERING WOMEN is structurally sound without any glaring grammatical errors. It’s obvious effort was put into editing. There were some repetitive thoughts from the characters that could have been culled, but those didn’t irritate me as much as they do in some books.
It was the lack of “feels” that bothered me most. Even in the direst moments, a few adjectives would have helped. As the reader, I was left with a feeling of desolation because I wanted to know their hearts. I needed to feel their loss and emote their success, but it just wasn’t there.
Even with all my criticism, I’m glad I stuck with it. There are so few pioneer stories and they are my favorite. My high hopes for WESTERING WOMEN influenced my disappointment, when it lacked what I anticipated. If you want to read something else by Sandra Dallas that is superb, try TRUE SISTERS. I’m anxious to read PRAYERS FOR SALE and THE LAST MIDWIFE, two more of her books on my TBR Mountain Range.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of TheZestQuest.com. A digital advanced copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. Thanks in advance for following links and sharing this review on social media.
One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is because it is based on factual events or periods in history. I knew of the gold rush and the thousands upon thousands of people who trekked across the US to reach the promised land of California where they would make their fortunes. Some families went but there were a great many men who made the long arduous trip but they all went to seek the gold that would change their lives for the better.
Not everyone went to find wealth. Some went to flee their pitiful lives and others to just escape.
We meet these brave women who chose to make the 2,000 mile journey rather than to continue the lives they had. Some left looking for a better life, some to find a husband among the miners and some left to elude the certainty of a slow death of privation and abuse.
This is a well written book with characters that you will grow fond of and remember for a long time. Brave women who defied convention and chose to travel West without husbands or brothers for protection. Women who learned not only how to take care of themselves but how to take care of each other.
I won this wonderful book in a Good Reads giveaway. Thank you St. Martin’s Press and Sandra Dallas.
Chicago, 1852. An advertisement looking for morally upright single women willing to travel to California to be brides for the Gold Miner's draws an eclectic group of women. Some seeking adventure, some running from their past, all wanting a better future. What they discover is a journey fraught with danger, hardships and frightening and perilous moments. They also find inner strengths they never knew they possessed and a bond of friendship that spans their lifetimes. A great adventure story about strong, capable women. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
Some may call this a dark book. I've enjoyed all the books I've read by Sandra Dallas. The story starts out very well but towards the middle really gets bogged down with too much violence and details. This was meant to be a realistic portrayal of forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. So much hardship they faced after we become bogged down with details it's saving grace is the nice ending.
Published January 7th 2020 by St. Martin's Press I was given a complimentary copy. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.
Many thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy. Here is my honest review.
This book was so bad I ended up taking notes so I could write a properly angry review for the publisher and Dallas is now on my "Do not read" list. I might post that review later but for right now all I'll say is that the women made stupid mistake after stupid unbelievable mistake all the way to California, there should be a trigger warning on the front for multiple rapes/attempted rapes (I read and enjoyed all of Game of Thrones so I don't really see myself as an especially sensitive survivor but the usage in this book pissed me off to no end) and Dallas should probably seek out a good therapist to help her deal with her hatred of men. It's a bit much.
What I learned from this book (because I feel we can learn something from even the worst books) is that if you let your oxen wander off, get stolen or abandon them you will lose all of my respect. I had no idea I liked oxen so much.
This is Historical Fiction set in the mid 1800's. This particular time in history is one of my favorites to read about so because of that, I enjoyed this one. The story was original and interesting. Some religious leaders lead women from Chicago via wagon train to California to be potential brides for the men trying to get rich during the Gold Rush. This had a certain sweetness that many love in their stories, but it was a little too sweet for me. I gave this 3 stars because it is an interesting story and I love this era, but I had a few issues with this (besides the sweetness)....not deal breakers per se, but it left me wanting.
This was a hard time in American history with the sacrifices that were made as people traveled west for a piece of the American dream, but this was kind of light regarding the history at that time as well as the hardships of wagon train life and the devastating emotion. Sure bad things happened, (with very little detail and emotion), but most of this felt extremely glossy. Tragedy did strike but it felt like it was "over there" and not up close and personal. Some of this lacked depth and quick resolutions came frequently.
The characters were likable. The depiction of the sexes, however, were singular and unoriginal. Men were either do-gooders or the complete opposite....abusers of women and children. Lots of pigeon holes here. The same about women can also be said. Some of this was light but I liked the story. So 3 stars.
What a great book! I suppose I should say more than that. This book intrigued me from the first paragraph. I've read a few of this author's books. But this one just blew me away.
The story itself is relatively simple. Two women meet early in the story (Mary and Maggie) and, for reasons we learn about later, sign up to head west on an all woman wagon train! That was enough to get me reading. Mary and Maggie are definitely the main characters, but there are so many more that we meet! The history is one of the hooks. I don't know much about the trails west or the troubles that men and women encountered, but this book had enough information to make me want to read more about the journeys and hardships these brave women (and men) encountered.
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read and review this remarkable book. I recommend it to those who love American history and historic fiction in general. This is a keeper!
It is the year 2020 -- and this book shouldn't have been published. This book is perpetuating the 'savage Native American' stereotype. NOPE. The only person of color with a name has been lied to her whole life about her heritage . NOPE. Every single man in this book was a complete piece of shit. NOPE. Pacing was crap. Characters were flat & dull.
Trigger warnings for rape, child abuse, child sexual abuse, gang rape, judgmental a**es, and harsh bullying towards children. Thoroughly religious and though I liked Maggie and Mary, the amount of triggers in this is astounding. I wanted to like this so much more than I did. Onto the next book I go.
I wanted to like this story of a wagon train of women going to California during the gold rush. But it just did not feel right. Each segment of the story, by itself, seemed appropriate for the time and place, but, overall, it seemed like the sketches were aimed at an extract of reality, not the whole. Maybe I should try this again, after a while.
Normally I love Sandra Dallas but this one just wasn't up to snuff. I thought a story of women pioneering across the west would be better than this. Mostly I think it was due to the women. I just didn't connect to any of them and really couldn't get invested in their story. I feel bad because this has never happened when I have read one of her books before. The writing was what I'm used to from her so it has to be my disconnection with the characters.
Nevertheless I thank the publishers and Net Galley for my copy.