I first read this book when I was a teen on the recommendation of a friend of mine at that time. Its been many years since I red it and it surprised me that I remembered so little of this wonderful book. It has been a joy to reread it.
Katherine Mary O'Fallon is a young girl from Boston. This is a true story of her life when her mother sends Katherine Mary off to rugged Canada to live with her Uncle John in the frontier in an effort to fight her lung (pleurisy) illness and regain her health.
Not long after arriving, as Katherine begins adjusting to her new life in Calgary on her uncle's ranch. Her new life there is very rough compared with her life in Boston.
This story takes place beginning in the year 1905 and is a true story of love and courage in the northern Canadian wilderness. There is an interesting forward by authors Benedict and Nancy Freedman that describes how Kathy has told them her life story. This book was first published in 1947 and later was made into a movie (in 1949) starring Dick Powell and Evelyn Keyes. The book has become a classic over the decades since it was first published. It has been and, I believe would be enjoyed by any young (or adolescent) woman from about the age of 13 and up.
There is humor early on in the book as Katherine Mary has developed a crush on Sgt. Mike Flannigan. Here is an excerpt:
"I haven't seen Mildred for ten days." I said "Mildred" but I was thinking "Mike" and there must have been something in my voice because Johnny stopped stirring and looked at me.
"Is a moose like a deer, only bigger," I asked quickly," with bigger antlers?"
That wouldn't have fooled a woman, but it fooled Johnny. He was back on the moose.
The voice of the story is Katherine Mary's. She talks about the harsh climates and conditions, but she also discusses meeting many new people, natives to the area and the changes in her new life. Mike is a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Katherine Mary has been attracted to him because you can "swim in his eyes they are so blue". He is also tall and handsome in his bright red coated uniform. Mike is 26 to Katherine Mary's 16.
Katherine Mary & Mike's wedding was not discussed. Before too long, Katherine Mary simply told Mike that she was going to have a baby. The two newlyweds travel by dogsled further and further north into Canada, into more desolate uninhabited areas. One place they settled in was called Grouard. I got curious and did a search on Google to see if it still existed and it was interesting to learn that at one time Grouard had been a bustling little town in Alberta, Canada but when the railroad was built 12 miles south of Grouard, the town just about dried up. This is an area where a hard life is normal, but it was hard to imagine living in such an isolated place. Katherine Mary faces all of this with humor and with an easy-going attitude most of the time. She loves her husband Mike and he loves her and together they seem to be able to face any adversity. This is their true love story. Katherine Mary and her family face bears, fires, life-threatening illness and extremely cold winters in the northern wilderness.
A description of the harsh winter:
The air was so cold they were afraid it would freeze the lungs of the horses. When it snows like that, you can stick your head out of the window and all you see is the nearest snowflake. You can walk two steps out your door and never find your way back to the house.
One chapter goes into terrifying detail of a huge fire that strikes the area. Mike warns Kathy to "go to the river and stay put". Kathy does just that and describes in detail as all other living things - people and wildlife also seek the golden river as refuge from the thick smoke and hot flames close to the rivers edge. The river becomes crowded and all differences are put aside as animals and humans crowd the river together. Afterward, Kathy describes the devastation she sees with great sadness.
She always expresses her love and gratitude when seeking advice from her husband, Mike because of his expertise and knowledge living in this wilderness area. Kathy also describes her experience with the birth of her first child, Mary Aloon, as she seeks out a midwife, who can safely deliver her baby. One is basically a charlatan who scares Kathy into thinking her baby will die. She finally finds Sarah, a trusted midwife who has delivered thousands of babies to the locals including the Indians of the area. Sarah is a wise woman who teaches Kathy about common sense, white magic, herbs and roots.
There is much danger in this northern Canadian wilderness as well. Kathy, having been from Boston, is a city girl. She has a lot to learn about surviving in the cold, desolate country that is new to her in so many ways. She learns about nature and the dangers of grizzly bears and cunning wolves. Kathy speaks to the reader, through the authors, in an easy-going voice and a style that is a pleasure to read. She speaks of meeting many of the natives of the country and learning their language and their customs. She has respect for and friendships with many of the local people too and even learns to speak Cree, the local language. Katherine Mary and Mike also face ravaging sickness that strikes and kills many in their area diphtheria.
There are many upbeat moments in this book as well. Kathy describes learning about the stars on a clear black night. They cuddled together on a blanket looking for the Big Dipper and Kathy remembers how brilliant and bright the stars were. Later they float silently in a canoe on the Peace River and eat wild berries.
She speaks of one young native man who is named Jonathan, who has so much pride he cannot or will not lose face by trying to save himself from being accused of murder. He would rather sit in a very hot jail cage filled with bull flies and mosquitoes rather than claim he is innocent.
Katherine Mary goes from a young girl of 16 and grows to a mature woman of 24 throughout this book. It is interesting to read about her courage and her maturity as she grows, marries her true love and raises a family.
The ISBN is 0-425-18323-8 and there are 312 pages.
This review is part of the write-off of msmorvay's
"THE 3RD ANNUAL RESURRECTING THE OLDIES BOOK WRITE OFF".
~Thanks for reading~