by Joy V. Smith
A straight line can be defined as a line “traced by a point traveling in a constant direction which has zero curvature and is the shortest distance between two points. Traveling in a straight line you hope to get to your destination without any curves, obstacles or roadblocks in your way. But, what happens when out of nowhere this route you are taking is blocked, changed and you have to take a different course. What happens when the reason you have to change directions is due to an event in your life caused by the death of someone close to you? This road and your hope to get where you need to go are changed because you are no longer free or welcome to travel this course. Lorena Emerson finds herself alone after a thief attempts to steal her money and kills her uncle. Traveling with a wagon train she is no longer welcome to continue and refuses to go home as suggested by the wagon master. Finding another course, another way traveling westward on the Oregon Trail she uses her initiative and persistence to find another course to travel, enlist the help of others in the same predicament and hopefully join another wagon train. Two enterprising young men are enlisted to help her find others who might help her along the way. Some would join to handle the cattle, one couple the food and the heavy gear and some would help to find her a man to help her get back what someone lost.
While deciding where to settle down certain things did to be in place. Each member of this new group supplied services that would help the others. One would provide the cooking, another the building and clearing of the land while some would go with her to find supplies. After meeting several people she and her group decide to leave the wagon train, find a place to live, hopefully join forces and with the help a mule named Jake, they just might succeed.
This is a story about courage, teamwork, understanding, caring and survival. Taking a group of people and finding a place to live is one thing but trusting this young girl as they do is quite another. How hard is it to settle in the west, endure the winters, plant in the spring and harvest the crop? Just what lessons will be learned before all is said and done. A man named Brock would join them and be their guide helping them clear the land, get supplies and hopefully build a settlement that would be safe from enemies, Indians and harm.
Each step of the way Lorrie seems to have the situations under control from getting feed, hay and supplies to dealing with anyone that comes in their way. Taking different people along with her we get to know more about Carol and her brother Dennis and their attachment to Lorrie. Fighting the cold, fighting those that mean them harm, leaving bodies in her wake and making sure that the people that comprise the new settlement have all they need it seems that this young girl has taken charge in more ways than one.
A uniquely told story that takes the reader across the west through hills, mountains, the many detours, trails and definitely not in a straight line to find a safe place to live, create homes, stores and much more. Throughout the novel we meet Shadow, Jake and many other horses, oxen and animals that help the new settlers find their way in their new homes. But, what about Lorrie? When will she get the house she so definitely deserves and how many trips will she make before something happens? With the help of so many and reuniting with both Jason and Timothy the two enterprising young men we met at the start of our journey, she learns more about the people and the life she hopes to live.
The people that she meets along the way are truly remarkable. Dealing with so many different personalities, nationalities and people enlightens readers to the hardships they encounter, the obstacles that they overcame and the friendships and loyalties that they formed. Prejudice rears its ugly head when Starlight hears the words of others calling her a half-breed angering not only Lorrie but her parents too. However, we meet others whose stories are quite compelling too. Cathy who lives with her husband and has to deal with her mother –in-law and her rude comments. Hoping that she and her husband will move to their new town called Sugar Valley and even open a hotel. Hoping to find more settlers along with way to fill her town along with Catherine. Lorrie was always on the move and never seemed to settle down. There was always work to be done, supplies that needed to be gotten and people that wanted to move to a new home. So, who was questioning Ink the man who owned the newspaper about the new town? Why did this person want to know about the people, the robbers and about the townspeople? A reporter from New York why would she care about this town and what did she hope to accomplish? As the reporter gets the information about the new town and the photos are taken little does everyone know that something amazing and special has been created. But, there is much more. As Lorrie’s life is about to change when she meets a wonderful man named Barr and things move ahead for her in a different way.
The frontier is dangerous and at times lives are lost as we meet more of the people within her new community and the hope that their safety will be assured but not in every case. Bodies are found, identified and some are buried without any pause for thought. Others are reminded of those that have passed and then something changes it all. Lorrie and Barr are married, the people of the settlement help prepare for her wedding but what does she really know about the man she is marrying. Instinct is sometimes enough, the wedding is beautiful and then a friend comes along and things change even more. Detours are not only the ones we travel on but sometimes those we encounter even at home along the way. Asking to leave his son with her and her new husband was a great favor, the end result adding Davy to her family, having a young man to help and later an older brother for her children.
Just what the end result for everyone will be you will have to learn for yourself as there are many more surprises, a reporter who presents the town with a memorable gift, others whom she meets that will bring her closer together with events from ther past and one determined girl named Lorrie set the west in a new direction of her own and created a detour that you might consider traveling on one day.
This is an interesting book that brings to light many important issues. Loyalty, family, strong-willed women that can care for themselves, family units, respect for elders, teamwork, prejudice, dealing with racial issues and one young girl that proved that sometimes things happen when you Detour in the right direction. Lorrie is a strong character that I feel could be brought back in another novel bringing her young daughters and son into the plot, creating more problems that would be indicative to the west and possibly adding the book that the reporter was writing with another chapter. This book can be read by young adults and teens teaching them responsibility, respect and family values.
Fran Lewis: reviewer