Dear America: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell (1847) by Kristiana Gregory

acrossthewideIn this haunting novel, Hattie’s father convinces her mother to leave the graves of Hattie’s sisters and follow the Oregon trail out west to start a new life. The Campbells and their Missouri neighbors set to the trail with their wagons and as many possessions as they could cram into them. Hattie makes a friend, but this friend soon marries on their voyage. Following are the incidents of thieving and fighting among neighbors, others’ wagons breaking down, and a tragic scene in which a small child dies from being accidentally fed hemlock mistaken for a carrot. Eventually, most wagons are abandoned and the animals pulling them die from lack of rest, water, and food, and the people must continue along the trail across the country on foot. They must also be wary of attacks from the Natives who dislike them traveling through their land.

Many of the characters grow and strengthen tremendously through this experience, starting off as delicate, naive, or materialistic, and becoming strong and wary, and learning to value, above all, their families and the gift of life and survival as they each eventually abandon all of their possessions. The book’s ending is triumphant and I found the story and characters to have quite a bit of depth and meaningful development. One of my favorites in the series.

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