Imagine a mother and her nineteen-year-old daughter accepting a wager from the fashion industry to walk 3,500 miles in 7 months from Spokane, Washington to New York City. The women have no male to protect them, no map, no money, no friends along the way...oh, and it's the late 1800s.
Such a tale sounds like the substance of fiction, but like many other inconceivable stories, this one is truth.
In Jane Kirkpatrick's newest historical fiction novel, The Daughter's Walk, she tells the story of Helga and daughter Clara Estby's cross-country walk in an attempt to earn the $10,000 wager to save the family farm.
A year later, Helga and Clara return home to find their home forever changed and the family they left behind so angry about the failed trip that they forbid any word of it spoken--ever.
Confused and angry, herself, Clara goes on a second journey in search of her identity, exiling herself from the family for twenty years.
Weaving together researched history with fiction, Kirkpatrick explores the concept of what makes a family, what makes a person.
Overall, I enjoyed Kirkpatrick's fictional retelling of what likely happened before, during, and after the journey. Unlike so many Christian authors, Kirkpatrick doesn't stop the narrative to "preach" at you; she simply lets the story reveal the moral truths, itself.
The one thing I was disappointed in was the ending. While there is a sort of reconciliation between Clara and the family, the novel touts itself as a story about "what exile and forgiveness are truly about." Yes, the novel does a good job exploring the struggles of the soul that Clara faced in her self-imposed exile. Yet, I found it fell short in teaching lessons of forgiveness--the text gave more a lesson on just forgetting and letting others repress the past for the sake of reconciliation.
If you want a quick read and an interesting snapshot into an incredible woman of the late 1800s, pick up this book. Enjoy the journey.