1st in series
Dana Fuller Ross
Bantam Doubleday Dell
Mesmerizing read ... Highly Recommended ... 5 stars
Sam Brentwood is not at all shy when voicing his opinion to President Andrew Jackson. “I disagree with you, Mr. President.” Thus begins a chronicle of the stalwarts who would cross the American frontier to claim land rights, seek adventure and bring to pass the United States’ goal of
‘Manifest Destiny.’ Mountain man Brentwood is commissioned to escort the first in what would prove to be many wagon trains crossing the country from east to west. Beginning with two wagons leaving from Long Island and carrying widowed twenty-three year old Claudia Humphries who is
traveling only because her brother-in-law and circumstance dictate she must and Claudia’s younger sister Cathy and her husband, the elderly miser Otto Van Ayl, it is not long before the train picks up wagon after wagon all heading west in hopes of land and a better life. Along the way old conventions begin to fall away, intrigue in the form of Russian and English sabotage, worries about what lies ahead and the monotony of slow plodding travel all are part of the tale. Sam Brentwood and his cohort Whip Holt must somehow form a group of farmers, widows, school teachers, adventurers, ne’er do wells, prosperous and destitute into a well oiled machine able to face any obstacle with clear eyed determination. Dr. Robert Martin, run away bound boy Danny, brooding Ted Woods, disgraced Lena Caldwell, former prostitute Cindy and Cherokee scout Stalking Horse
are only a few of the recurring figures who appear in this and following works.
While not a new series, The Wagons West books are a must read for all history buffs and particularly for those who enjoy reading about the westward expansion of the United States. My fellow teachers and I first began reading the books in 1979, and I have been re reading them from that day to this. A professional writer for more than a quarter century James Reasoner, who uses a variety of pen names, is a prolific author who has produced upwards of 100 novels dealing with various aspects of United States history. On the pages of writer Reasoner’s well researched volumes the reader is treated to well developed characters who behave pretty much as we all do; good, bad and silly. Family bonds are stretched, children become disobedient, anger flares, and jealousy rears its head more than once. Life and death were all part of the history of the wagon trains, and are detailed reasonably on the pages of author Reasoner’s works. Settings are depicted vividly, dialogue is filled with pithy, believable rhetoric and situations are accurate to historical fact.
‚Independence!‘ whets the reader appetite for more as the saga is carried from New England to the ‘jumping off’ point of Independence, Missouri. Especially for those of us whose ancestors arrived somewhere in New England prior to the Revolution and moved slowly westward, the works carry
readers into the activities of people who no doubt suffered, enjoyed and experienced the same life encounters as did our own grand parents. During travel across the eastern region of the nation, the travelers face day to day living in colorful detail. Romances flourish or die, the lazy learn they must work or they will not eat, hard working individuals muster courage in the face of danger, old status symbols fall away and the varied members of the group discover that they either learn to work together or they will die together along the at times harsh, unyielding terrain.
A compelling read, Independence! Fits well on the home library shelf, the high school library list and as a take along book for reading while waiting for the train to pass, the kids dental appointment to end or as a pleasant way to spend an afternoon reading before the warmth of a fire.
Enjoyed the read very much, highly recommend to all who enjoy historical novels. The books are available at Amazon, on eBay and can be found in jumble shops. They are worth the time to hunt them down.