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What Lies West: A Novel of the American Frontier Paperback – December 11, 2009
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Morton has done a monumental job of research for 'What Lies West,' and it is not lost on the reader. We can feel the dust of the plains, smell the salt air of the San Francisco docks and hear the silence of a northern woodland. This makes for a powerful novel that also manages to engage the reader with well-drawn characters who come in and out of Lina's life on her journey, much as people do in real life. While this might prove less than satisfying to some readers, I found the concentration on the main character helped to involve the reader with the book, and compensated for this loss. What I did feel, however, was that certain characters, including Lina herself, lacked creditable validation for some of their actions, thereby making said actions less than believable.
Still and all, 'What Lies West' was a book I looked forward to reading each day and was sorry when it ended. One can't say more than that.
The story begins shortly after young, hard working Carolina Clark's husband dies leaving her and his business, Clark and Morgan's Overland Outfitters, in deep debt. When beautiful Josephine Paul arrives expecting Carolina's husband to transport her to California, Carolina tells her she would be better off going back where she came from. However, Josephine convinces Carolina to pack up and leave her husband's debts behind so the two of them can go west together.
During the long covered wagon journey, many characters drift in and out of Carolina's life. Henry Parker, who is more boy than man, helps with most of the physical labor the journey requires. Andrew and Sarah Reed, a couple in the same wagon train are so one-sighted it weakens them to the point they can't possibly survive. The Olmstead family gladly accepts an orphaned baby as their own while still grieving the loss of their youngest child in a freakish accident.
Throughout the story, differences between business-smart Carolina and beautiful-but-delicate Josephine are obvious. Yet together they make a team of strength and cunning.
At times Morton's narrative is poetic. - - - "Here the trail was a river of ruts running in all directions, crisscrossing itself, trying desperately to sort itself out." - - - "Soft cattails and thorny purple thistle bent in the soft breeze to touch gray heather and green grasses. The west was meeting her with open arms filled with a tempting bouquet." The dialogue is sharp and has a true ring to it.
This novel of epic proportions, cleanly written and well researched, is a testament to the abiding bond of women who gave strength and support to each other while trekking across the American West seeking opportunity and independence.