Saturday, January 11, 2014

Clare O'Beara Reviews Joy Smith's "Detour Trail"

Detour Trail
Joy V. Smith
ISBN: 978-1-61235-570-2
Melange Books
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
The Oregon Trail is notoriously long and hazardous, but Lorena Emerson and her uncle set off to seek a better future. Her uncle is killed by a thief so Lorrie is told she can't continue driving her oxen alone and must leave the wagon train at the next town. But the determined girl gathers some other discards such as the Browns and their broken wagon, and makes ready to travel with the next small train. Lorrie, who started driving light, collects abandoned furniture, mattresses and cast-iron stoves on the trail. When the steep mountain climbs become too much for a heavily pregnant woman and their livestock, Lorrie investigates a DETOUR TRAIL to a river and suggests settling near a mountain man and his Arapaho family.

Next we see the plentiful hard work and planning involved in building a settlement, from splitting logs and hauling rocks to planting gardens, and Lorrie makes a few back journeys to buy goods including flour, chickens and a wise mule called Jake. The girl is good at planning but less so at backwoods skills. She can hold her own against trail thieves though, who foolishly imagine a girl and loaded wagon will be easy prey. The settlers only have a short summer to prepare for winter, and their lives will depend on their buildings and supplies.

This is a spirited tale of a brave young woman, without any great drama of Indian wars. I enjoyed seeing the little settlement prosper and grow, and Lorrie had further adventures every time she ventured to the town or fort for supplies. Joy Smith has written a decent young adult read for a slice of American history, which reminded me of  Children on the Oregon Trail.


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