Monday, April 4, 2011
Book Review: The Daughter's Walk
The Daughter’s Walk (Waterbrook Press) by Jane Kirkpatrick is yet another example of Kirkpatrick’s mastery as a storyteller. Kirkpatrick, a recipient of many prestigious literary awards, is known for her meticulous attention to detail and superb characterization. She is the author of 20 books, 17 of which are historical novels. Kirkpatrick speaks with authority in her western-based books, having homesteaded with her husband on a remote ranch in Eastern Oregon.
A historical novel, The Daughter’s Walk begins in 1896. Helga Estby accepts a challenge to walk 3,500 miles from Spokane, Washington to New York City. Helga insists that her daughter Clara accompany her. Sponsored by the fashion industry, the trek is to be accomplished within seven months and will be rewarded the sum of $10,000, money that could save the family farm. The walk is intended to promote a new dress fashion and also to prove that women have stamina.
The story is told by the daughter, Clara, who is against the walk from the onset. She doesn’t share her mother’s sense of adventure and feels the plan dangerous, humiliating and foolish. Helga’s husband strongly disapproves of the venture, considering it irrational and irresponsible. The family has many children and the burden of keeping house is left to the older girls, leaving them afraid and resentful.
Helga has her own reasons for accepting this challenge, among them saving Clara from what she believes would be a terrible mistake. As the story unfolds, Clara learns things about her mother that affect her own existence and place in the family.
The trek is even more arduous than either expect. Hardships and disappointments abound. Things have not gone well on the home front either, and when they eventually return both Clara and her mother find their lives irrevocably changed.
Clara’s life journey continues. She finds the consequences of the walk have defined her, in both positive and negative ways.
The Daughter’s Walk is a fascinating study of the era and its people, particularly the Norwegian community and sense of family. Kirkpatrick’s thorough research and extraordinary writing has brought to life this true story that changed the lives of so many.