The thing that most impresses me about Jane Kirkpatrick’s writing is her meticulous research and the care she takes with the authenticity of her story. Any assumptions that she makes are logical and supported by research. The author’s note in A Light in the Wilderness provides information allowing the reader to differentiate between known facts and details added for the benefit of the story. Ms Kirkpatrick provides the logic behind assumptions that were made, supporting the added details.
In this story I learned about Oregon’s exclusion and lash laws. At a time when existing and potentially new states had to decide whether to be slave or free states, these laws attempted to eliminate choosing by excluding people of color from the population. While the laws were not consistently enforced and were repealed and reinstated in a variety of versions, there were times when people of color were to be lashed twice a year until they left the territory. Oregon entered the Union as a free state, but had an exclusion clause in its constitution until 1926, although it was largely unenforced.
After moving from Kentucky where she was most likely a slave to Missouri where she was likely given her freedom, our heroine, Letitia, married, in a private ceremony and without the benefit of a license or an official, Davey Carson, a white widower. Through mutual consent and inspiration they traveled the trail to Oregon, enduring many hardships, and making a life together. While Davey did not always understand Letitia’s needs, especially her need to feel safe as a free black woman, and was not always able to reconcile her needs with his own desires, he did truly care for her and probably took her opinions into account more than many husbands of the day.
Letitia was a light in the wilderness to many as she comforted and coached mothers as their babies entered this world, and as their loved ones were birthed into the next. As Letitia said, “Tending and mending used threads of many colors.” Her candle was lit from the flames of those who loved, accepted and befriended her, those who nurtured her from being someone who tried not to stand out, to one who wanted to fit in, to being someone with the courage and faith to stand up for what was right.
The most amazing transition in Letitia was in where and how she found freedom. Initially she longed to be free from slavery. That granted, she longed to be free of the fear of being placed back into slavery and of being oppressed by a small minded majority. Later she found freedom in how she chose to look at life, how she chose to remember things, how she chose to forgive and show grace. She found a type of freedom many would be blessed to find today.For those readers who enjoy historical fiction, those who long to see good triumph over evil, and those who root for the underdog, I would highly recommend A Light in the Wilderness. Letitia’s light will warm your heart. I thank Revell Publishers and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for providing A Light in the Wilderness for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.