Sixteen women, widowed by the Civil War, set out from St. Louis for the wide-open space of the Nebraska prairie, with the promise of a homestead. They arrive to discover that they have been duped and have been promised as brides. Five determined women choose to stay and make their own future.
Having lived on the prairie in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado my entire life, I am partial to stories in this setting and no one writes them better than Stephanie Grace Whitson. Her writing is, at times, poetic and she has a knack for phrasing that is beautiful. One of my favorite lines is from one of the "brides" who has escaped an abusive background and is looking for a fresh start: "I can't." Ella plopped down on the bed. How could she make Mama understand? It had taken so very much effort to grasp a new dream and new hope and to climb back into the light. But that light did not include womanly things like new bonnets and waltzes. Ella's new light shone on dreams of well-fed livestock and mountains of newly mown hay." Having had times in my own life that I felt I was "climbing back into the light", that paragraph really touched me.
Another passage that reached into my heart was towards the end of the book (don't panic - no spoilers here) when Jed, a great fan of reading, offers wisdom to Matthew, who is grieving the death of his wife:
"All the hours I'd spent reading philosophy and theology and every other 'ology' known to man, and when this happened [referring to the loss of his arm in the war] I didn't have one single answer to the questions that mattered."
"But this" - Matthew tapped on the Bible - "answered them all." He didn't try to remove the sracasm from his tone.
"Did I say I had all the answers?" Jeb shook his head. "No. If you think I said I have all the answers, you misunderstood. I don't. I do, however, believe, from the soles of my worn-out boots to the top of my gigantic frame, that the only answers that matter are right here." He laid his massive hand on the open book.
This is a heart-warming story with a great message. I recommend this one - and all of Mrs. Whitson's books - to all who like Christian fiction, romances, or just a plain-old good story.