A Clearing in the Wild by Jane Kirkpatrick is a book based on a true story of the settling of the Oregon Territory in 1853 by a religious group from Bethel, Missouri. The people of Bethel live a life of simple living for the good of the community and generously reaching out to others to come live with them. Nothing in the community is owned personally but all is communally shared. They have a leader who makes all the rules for the group and is not to be questioned even by the men. Emma Wagoner is a 17 year old girl of Bethel who must constantly reign herself in. She would like to be outspoken of her feelings of skepticism of their leader. Emma has finally caught the eye of Christian Geisy a good looking man who is much older than she. Christian has just returned from a mission for Bethel. Christian soon asks Emma to marry and she quickly accepts as well as her father agrees to this arrangement but the leader, Wilhelm Keil refuses to marry them. The couple marry anyway using a justice of the peace. Father Keil decides to move the whole group to Oregon because of growing concerns regarding the slavery question. He chooses a scouting group and Christian is among them. Emma protests then figures out a way to become the only woman in the scouting group to venture out to the west. She finds hardship that is much worse than she could have imagined.
Ms Kirkpatrick you have written such a good book mixing fact and fiction to make the reader feel a part of this trip and the first 2 years of the settlement in Oregon. Though Kirkpatrick had to fictionalize the story it reads very true to life. It tells of the hardship not only of the times but of being a woman who cannot express her thoughts because women were not able to make decisions even those which concern her. A woman in Bethel was even further censored than the general women of the day. Such a hard life being a woman was at this time. Thank you Ms Kirkpatrick for writing such a good book for us.