Monday, August 12, 2013

"Prairie Song" Review

After months and even years of planning and preparing, the Boones Lick Company from St. Charles, Missouri, is ready to set out on the trail to the West.

Anna Goben is eager to go with the Company on the trail. Even though it will be hard to leave some of her beloved friends from the quilting circle, Anna is convinced that her mother and grandfather will benefit from new scenery, new people, and a new life away from the ever-present cloud of grief that has surrounded her family since her brother’s death in the Civil War.

Caleb Reger, a trail hand with the Company, desires to run away from a cloud of grief as well. His closely-guarded secrets from the war have him running from his family and from the God he promised to serve. The last thing he needs is for a stubborn and independent – and beautiful – woman like Anna Goben to get in the way.

With Caleb running from his past and Anna doing everything she can to help her family, the two seem unlikely to ever let their hearts turn to thoughts of love. But life on the trail may just change their minds.

Prairie Song is the first in a series by Mona Hodgson that follows a group of travelers as they venture west into a new land. Through it all, will the hope they have in God and His grace lead them to the Promised Land?

I have read a lot of books about the Oregon/California Trail in my day. I really enjoy them – that’s why I keep reading them – and I always go into a series like this wondering what type of angle the author will take and what new things about life on the trail to the West I will learn.

This Trail novel didn’t really give me too much new information historically, even though it was well-written as far as the history and time period goes. What it really brought up more than the history of life on the trail was a depth of spiritual growth in the characters that I have found to be typical of this author.

So, instead of focusing entirely on trail life, Prairie Song focuses on the characters – and there are a lot of them! I would be lost if I hadn’t read the previous series of novellas that led up to it, the Quilted Heart novellas.

The stories of Garrett Cowlishaw and Caroline Milburn from the third novella in that series were also continued here in this novel. This ‘two stories in one’ of Anna/Caleb & Garrett/Caroline sometimes got to be a bit much, but I understand why this was done. Novels about life on the trail during this time period (1860s) can get a bit monotonous, so having four main characters kept things a little more interesting.

What I liked most about the characters was how they read the Bible and experienced tremendous growth throughout the novel. I especially related to Caleb’s experience of not feeling forgiven by God. He knew in his head and heart that he had been forgiven, but he didn’t always have the faith to believe it and live it. Anna also had some growing to do before she could give her heart to Caleb. She had been allowing her past experiences to rule her future instead of trusting in God to do so. It was so interesting to me how Anna kept trying to change her mother, who was an alcoholic, rather than trusting in God to change her mother as He saw fit. That part of the plot was unique and lent itself to some spiritual issues coming to the surface that I might not otherwise have thought about.

As far as the romances, the one between Garrett and Caroline progressed as I guessed it would – without too much fanfare. With Anna and Caleb, I was a little more interested in their relationship. There was a hint of the Big Misunderstanding plot device, but luckily it came from stubbornness on the part of one of the characters as opposed to a comedy of errors such as misplaced notes or some other such foolishness.

While there were some heartbreaking moments for these characters, they never were without hope, which kept the overall feel of the book from being depressing. Not everything that happens to these characters is completely wrapped up in this title, which is to be expected from a series.

I can’t necessarily say that this Oregon/California Trail book sets itself apart too much from other ones that I have read other than the spiritual depth that was portrayed, but it was still a good novel, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

I will give Prairie Song ... 3 ½ BookWorms.

Prairie Song
by Mona Hodgson
"Hearts Seeking Home" Book #1
WaterBrook Press
Publication date: August 6, 2013

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

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