Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Emma of Aurora

I received Emma of Aurora as a Kindle book.  It is written by Jane Kirkpatrick and is actually three books in one.  Included is A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm, and A Mending at the Edge.  It is historical fiction about the founding of Aurora Colony in Oregon. 
This is an intensely interesting tale of Emma, one of the most headstrong and independent thinkers in Wilhelm Keil’s German Christian Community.  The story begins in the 1850s in Bethel, Missouri where Wilhelm believes his people are becoming too influenced by the people around them.  He decides they need to move the entire colony to a new site in the Pacific Northwest.  Wilhelm, as the colony leader, controls almost everything in the people’s lives, and everyone works toward the common good, rather than owning anything.  He chose scouts to travel to the Northwest to discover a perfect place for the colony to relocate.  Emma was married to one of the scouts, Christian Giesy.  Wilhelm, who was not in favor of their marriage, kept them apart from each other much of their early married life, sending Christian on missions here and there.  When Christian was going to be sent so far away, for such a long time, Emma insisted that she also go along.  The first book is mostly about the trials of the trail and the finding of, what the scouts believed, was a perfect location for the colony at Willapa, Washington.  They found out that the very large trees took very long to cut down to make houses, so that when the first wave of Bethel immigrants got there, there were only a couple of houses ready for them.  The rainy weather was also very disheartening, and Wilhelm railed against the scouts for their decision to build there.   He blamed Emma for their choice.  Wilhelm took most of the people on with him to Oregon where he bought land and called it Aurora Mills after his favorite daughter.  Emma and her husband’s family stayed on in Willapa for several years. 
The second book is split between Willapa and Aurora with chapters from Wilhelm’s wife, Louisa’s point of view in Aurora, and Emma’s continuing story in Willapa.  Emma’s husband drowns tragically and in her grief, she makes disastrous decisions for her family.  In the end, she moves to Aurora and rejoins the faith community there.
The third book chronicles her attempts to become accepted, heal, and give to others.  The leader has the power to crush her spirit by taking her boys away from her, but she learns to make the best of the situation and find ways to bless others who are hurting.  Emma’s struggle is between being independent and yet needing others.  Perhaps each reader can relate to that in their own lives. At the end, she has come to peace with herself and the community she lives in.
This trilogy is very true to history, though of course where the history was not known, Jane Kirkpatrick’s imagination comes in.  At the end of each book, she gives credit to the old Aurora Colony Historical Museum for all the information, documents, artifacts, etc. that made the story true to life.  There is a glossary of German words and expressions that is helpful for understanding the language used occasionally in the book.  Each book starts with a map of the areas, and a listing of the characters and their relationships.  I found the author’s notes and acknowledgments very interesting, as she told what was fact, and what she had added to the story. 
I enjoyed reading these books because I am a fan of historical fiction.  However, there are 1168 pages in the trilogy!  It takes a while to read the whole thing.  WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers and Edelweiss provided me with a complimentary e-copy of this book for review purposes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”