The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.
But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.
When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are. – Goodreads
Where do I start? Simply put, I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always been intrigued by the Oregon Trail (anyone remember the old PC game?!), partly because I grew up on a stretch of it and loved picturing emigrants who may have traveled that route in search of new lands and opportunities. They faced numerous hardships and many people died.
This story is told from two POVs; Naomi, a widow who is travelling with her parents and brothers west, and John, a man in charge of helping the May family with their mules.
The story follows their journey along hundreds of miles of challenges, heartbreak, death, love and triumphs. Though I’m not terribly familiar with the accuracies of the Oregon Trail, I live in Idaho, and it was interesting to come across Native American tribes and words I am familiar with from my area (Shoshoni, Bannock, Fort Hall, Pocatello, etc.) which makes me appreciate the history in my geographical location more.
I appreciated Harmon’s attempt at portraying everyone — white settlers, Native Americans, Mormons — with the utmost respect. While it’s easy to look at someone else’s differences and label them as savage or ruthless, that isn’t how we can adequately learn from other cultures and ways of life.
Overall, I wish the book had been longer; I felt the ending was rushed. I appreciated the slow growth of the characters as they faced tragedy and hardship, while celebrating the joyful moments in between. Overall, this is probably my favorite historical fictional depiction of the Oregon Trail. I rated it a 4/5 on Goodreads.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. You can pre-order Where the Lost Wander on Amazon.