Forget what you might have heard about Augusta Pierce Tabor – that is, if you heard anything. The plain first wife of Horace Tabor, uncrowned silver king of 19th century Leadville, Colorado, Augusta was unceremoniously cast aside when her husband fell in love with dewy-eyed Elizabeth McCourt “Baby” Doe. Gusta’s story begins in 1855 Maine, when she first meets “Haw” Tabor, a handsome stonecutter she impresses with her intelligence. Though plagued with ill health, Gusta follows him westward, first to the Kansas plains, then to Colorado in search of greater wealth. For years, she frugally raises their son while cooking for men in mining camps – the sole woman in an untamed land. By 1878, Haw has struck it rich. His extravagance knows no bounds. It’s then that Gusta, wanting only love and stability, knows she has lost him for good.
Augusta’s own story is long overdue, and Coleman tells it to perfection. In smooth prose, she gives life to a woman whose hard work and stamina paved the way for westward settlement. Augusta’s greatest flaw, her unending love for such an unworthy man, stands as testament to her persistence, generosity, and courage. It’s unfortunate that the novel grants Baby Doe the last word, but this, too, is in keeping with the unsung heroism of Augusta’s life.