Letitia Carson, a free black woman who is married to a white man, struggles to hold onto her freedom every day. Davey, her husband (though not recognized by law as her husband) is an immigrant from Ireland who desires to better his life. Jane Kirkpatrick has mastery of her characters. She pulls real people out of history and brings them to life with all of their hardships and victories. Letitia has free papers but she is still in danger in both Missouri and Oregon. Though married and protected by Davey, her life could be turned upside down in the event of his demise and she reminds him of that every season. What turmoil there was, even on the West Coast, in determining who was free and who was slave. Entering that picture we also have Betsy, a Kalapuya Indian along with Nancy, a widow with several young children. All are trying to survive in 1800s America in the age of expansion. The book provides history and a look into what it very well may have been like for black women, widowed women, and Indian women in the Oregon territory. They took their "lights" to the wilderness of Oregon and they persevered.
When Letitia receives her freedom papers, she is not sure what freedom really means. She comes to find out that it means the ability to make ones own choices and bear the consequences, good or bad, for those choices. She comes to find out it may also mean standing up for yourself. Whatever freedom means, Letitia values it highly and vows to keep her freedom papers with her always.
Letitia makes a choice not to go to Oregon with her former owners. Instead, she chooses to stay in Missouri, a slave state. The problem is that she has no place to stay or keep her cow. She also has no place to work. Davey Carson offers her a place to live and eventually he offers her his heart. Since it is illegal for a black and white to marry, what does she choose? How does she make it when she eventually heads west on the Oregon Trail to a new life in Oregon? She would never have survived without the friends who come into her life.
This is an exceptional book, based on the true story of Letitia Carson and those who came in contact with her. The author has done extensive research on her little known story. She becomes one of the first free black women to arrive in Oregon. She will bring two lawsuits against a white man in defense of her freedom. I was so surprised to learn of the exemption laws in Oregon and the prejudice inflicted in a supposed free state. The authors depiction of the lives of women on the trail to Oregon the dangers and heartaches as well as joys is especially thorough. This was a wonderful book, delightful as well as informative.
I received this book from The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
A Light In The Wilderness***** by Jane Kirkpatrick
A Light In The Wilderness takes place in Missouri in the 1800's where Letitia lives and struggles to make a living as a freed woman of color. Letitia may have her papers saying she is free but not everyone sees her that way and continue to treat her as a slave. Even so, Letitia has a kind heart, wants to be treated fairly and loved. Davy Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman, and Letitia marry even though it is illegal. Letitia feels she can actually trust Davy, but Davy has secrets that he keeps well hidden. Will these secrets tear them apart? Davy and Letitia move west to Oregon to make a better life for themselves. Oregon may be a free-state with no slaves, but there is still hatred and hostile feelings toward persons of color.
There are many challenges and hardships Letitia faces in her lifetime. Much hatred, facing and overcoming fear and humiliation, learning to trust others and herself, all challenge Letitia. But she holds onto her dignity and is generous, kind hearted and forgives injustices preferring to hold onto the good, learns courage and her faith keeps her loving despite her challenging life. This is a remarkable story and even more remarkable as it is a true story.
~~I received a copy of this book from the Book Fun Network for my review~~
I loved the 3 female characters in this book, particularly Letitia. Their struggles, hopes, triumphs, and disappointment engaged me and made me care about what happened to them. For days after reading this book, I was wrapped up in considering the conflicts women of that time faced, particularly women who were not white. I mulled over Letitia's gentle but tough spirit, and ways that she could set her mind in a positive way, recognizing that we all have the freedom to decide our attitudes, regardless of the very real oppression we may feel in circumstances.
Like some others, I would have liked to know more about Davey and his backstory, to which there were hints and illusions, but no full explanation. He was conflicted in that his prejudice toward both black people and women was at odds with is love and admiration of Letitia. It would have helped to know more about why his brother was mad at him, what had happened between him and his son. But, then, this was really Letitia's story, so those details may have detracted or thrown off the pace.
I was drawn into the historical setting. The author seamlessly weaves a lot of historical facts into the story so that it feels authentic without being bogged down by a history lesson.
As soon as I was finished with this book, I gave it to my mother, who finished it in 2 days. We would both like to read more by this author.
I was really intrigued by this book and the history behind it. The story was based on the life of a black woman who was free. Yet having to live on a daily basis with the prejudices and hatred toward blacks, her freedom was truly limited.
Lettie received no respect and very few women were willing to be friends with her. She constantly feared that she would be forced into slavery. She lived with a white man as his wife. Marriage between a black woman and white man was against the law. But even her relationship with Davey was very complicated. And his attitudes were equally frustrating as they mirrored many of the prejudices of the day. I had a hard time feeling anything but annoyed with Dave.
I enjoyed this book for the historical aspects. It wasnt necessarily a fast moving book. But it was worth the read just to get a better understanding of what many black men and women must have had to experience during the 1840s. And it was a reminder that just passing a law prohibiting slavery did not necessarily allow for freedom.