A Black Cat Book Review
A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick
Emma Warner was a young woman raised in the small German religious community of Bethel, Missouri, in the mid 1800’s. The community was somewhat isolated from others in the belief that their way of life was better protected if outsiders were kept at a distance. The only people to join the group were those who were “evangelized” usually by scouts who were sent out to find new places to settle.
Emma married Christian Giesy, a man close to her father’s age, when she was a teenager. That they loved each other is clear but the marriage was not without its difficulties. Christian was a scout for the group and was away most of the first couple of years of their marriage. Though the members believed that women were to be submissive and follow the men Emma was rather out-spoken and impetuous. Christian liked her forth-rightness but it was frowned upon by the leadership at Bethel.
When her husband is selected to lead a group of scouts west to the Washington territory Emma convinces the community’s leader that she should go with them. Unheard of, both that she approached leadership and that she was permitted to go. The journey to Washington was not easy for the pregnant woman but it was nothing compared to what she would endure once they arrived in Washington and began to prepare for those who would come to join the new settlement in a year or two.
Christian and Emma face many challenges. Not only in their marriage but, like all the scouts, in simply staying alive. At one point Emma leaves Christian and the scouts and sets out alone, with her young son, to the place she thinks is better suited as a site for the community of believers. Of course, as she knew they would, Christian and the other men search for and find her. She makes her argument and there is compromise.
When those from the Bethel community arrive all is not as hoped. There is disappointment and dissension among them and a split is inevitable. Through it all Emma becomes more confident of herself and of Christian. Her faith grows and sustains her when all else fails. They lose much in the journey but they gain even more.
Based on the life of Emma Wagner Giesy, Jane Kirkpatrick’s story is one of determination, courage, and faith. I found the book interesting if only for the fact of the incredible hardships these people faced and overcame. As always Kirkpatrick did much research for her novel and shows us the tenacity, strength, and faith of the women who contributed to society in remarkable ways.