A Clearing in the Wild

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by Lessa J. Scherrer

The people of Bethel, Missouri, seek to follow God’s word by living both in the world of the 1850s and outside this world, to distance themselves from its myriad distractions and vanities. Emma Wagner has grown up following the Diamond Rule: to go beyond treating others as she would like to be treated by helping others to live even better than she does. But patience and humility do not come easily to Emma, and though she is a devout believer in her faith, she has doubts, doubts that challenge the authority of the colony’s beloved leader. After the inevitable clash, the leader sends her west with a party of scouts to find new land for the Bethelite colony. As she clears a way to the wilds of Oregon, uncovering her deepest self, she finds something she never imagined: a yearning for community.

A Clearing in the Wild is Book One of Jane Kirkpatrick’s new Cherish and Change Historical Series, and a promising beginning it is. Unlike so many authors who drop a 21st-century liberated woman into an earlier era, Kirkpatrick’s Emma shines through as a woman firmly rooted in her time and place, both belonging to her community and questioning it. Perhaps this is because Emma Wagner Giesy was a real woman who came to Oregon Territory in 1853 with a group of Bethelite scouts. But I think Emma’s poignance owes much to Jane Kirkpatrick’s meticulous research and lyrical writing style. A Clearing in the Wild is a joy to read as a coming-of-age story, a story of the western frontier, or as a spiritual quest. It satisfies on every level.