Everything She Didn’t Say

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by Kimberly Fish

Everything She Didn’t Say is unique in that it reads like a memoir within a memoir. The novel is a fictionalization of the life of Carrie Adell Strahorn, a willing wife to a man who became a promoter and developer of the train industry carving through the American West, and a writer/adventurer in her own right. Snippets from Carrie Strahorn’s actual memoir are endnotes in each chapter. Where the author delves into creativity is in re-creating what Carrie’s life could have looked like in a Victorian culture while exploring the untamed West. Carrie’s love for her husband, and her endurance of his visionary gambles, gained her the actual title “Mother of the West,” but the author shows us what that life was like outside of the careful lines written in her published memoir (lauded to acclaim in the early 1900s) and plays up what she might have written, had she had the liberty, in the handwritten notes at the front of each chapter. Told with pluck and realism, this novel gives us a Carrie Strahorn who could defy most modern women’s abilities and reminds readers what bravery looks like when bound by the conventions of environment and culture.

Though I was thrown off a bit by the imagined and real memoirs as a storytelling vehicle, I quickly fell into the story about a woman finding her way in a world where few accommodated her needs or situation. The narrative sometimes reads like a travelogue, but it doesn’t detract from the rich interior life of a heroine whose best accomplishment might have been in thwarting pre-conceived expectations about women in the late 1800s. Highly recommended.