Based on the author’s own family history, this novel tells the story of Sarah Agnes Prine, whom we first see as a 17 year old traveling with her family through the Arizona Territories. Over the course of the book we see her fight to defend her family from Indians, struggle through the hardships of living on the frontier, teach herself to read, fall in love, and become an incredible, tenacious mother. The book is absolutely riveting, not to mention one of the best love stories I’ve ever read, so don’t pick it up unless you can clear your schedule. And yes, it’s going to make you cry, but it’s entirely worth it!
2. Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown; Massachusetts, late 1600s
Based on a true story, Flight of the Sparrow tells the tale of Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan woman who is captured by Indians in a violent raid on their small township. Her home is destroyed, her children lost, and her freedom sold to a powerful tribeswoman. In the midst of hardship, she realizes that even as a slave to the Indians she has more freedoms than she did in the rigid lifestyle she lived before. Will her husband ransom her back to the English? And will she ever fit in with them again if he does? This was an incredible story and window into such a different life than the one I live.
3. War Brides by Helen Bryan; English countryside, WWII
Alice, the daughter of the local vicar, is distraught when her fiancee shows up with an American bride, Evangeline. Elsie is a poor evacuee from London, Tannie is a Jewish girl who has fled the horrors of Europe, and Frances is a wild debutante who’s been sent to the country to stay out of trouble. As the war descends on England, the five women forge a friendship over rationing, the threat of Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst. I really expected this to be a fluffy romance, but it turned out to be a rich story with a wealth of historical detail.
4. The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber;Prairies of S. Dakota, early 1900s
Rachel is a cook in the slaughterhouse district of Chicago, desperate for a different life. When her employer’s son offers her a deal–he’ll marry her if she’ll give him the land she’s entitled to claim on the prairie–she jumps at the chance, envisioning herself as an upper class landowner. But as one of the first African American couples in an area that suffers punishing drought, life is nothing like she expected, leading her to difficult choices. Honestly, this book hooked me on the first page, with a vivid image of Rachel and her husband sending their 6-year-old daughter down the well to collect water for the family. I loved that it was such a different view of life on the prairie from other books I’ve read.
5. The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard; Boston, 1775
When Lizzie Boyleston’s husband is killed in one of the early battles of the Revolutionary War, Lizzie throws herself into her work as a midwife. But when she develops a friendship with Abigail Adams, she’s drawn into the revolutionary cause and is soon willing to risk her life to discover who has been murdering fellow patriots in her small community. She begins to suspect even her closest allies: her good friend Martha and Martha’s appealing older brother. Part mystery and part romance, this novel gives a detailed look into the life of the women who were left behind when their husbands and sons went off to war. I especially enjoyed the many historically accurate details about the life of Abigail Adams.