Hannah Morris had fallen in love with Lucas Bowman, but their union would not be accepted in Ohio in 1872 due to his biracial heritage. She lives in constant fear of her stepfather, who raped her and dominates the household. She decides to escape with Lucas and join a wagon train to California, feeling that racial tension and prejudice will be less restrictive out West. Lucas, although raised in France and trained as a physician, must travel alongside Hannah as her slave. Before they reach the high mountains, they are forced to disengage from the train and continue on alone.
They stumble upon an abandoned sod house in Colorado. They also meet the neighbors, who explain the process of becoming a homesteader/landowner. Hannah is so tired that she can’t imagine traveling on. She and Lucas are married by the local minister but soon learn that life as farmers on the plains of Colorado is anything but fun and racial equality is still a long way off. This is their story.
Using a first-person journal format, Fleming narrates a story of Hannah’s life, dreams, disappointments, challenges and aspirations. Hannah’s disillusionment with prairie life and her need for more than family and children lead her to town, where she becomes involved in various social reform movements of the day. Fleming highlights the emotional struggles of Hannah, who despite living in a different century speaks to her sisters today when she writes in a letter to her mother, “Why should women be held back from accomplishing whatever we are capable of in life?”
Journeying is a sensitive novel interspersed with snippets of historical events, medical practices, states rights, women’s rights and other social developments that shaped the time period.