Never Let Go

Written by Pamela Nowak
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

Between 1848 and 1856, five women from different backgrounds marry and begin learning how to deal with the hardships of becoming frontier wives. Laura Duley marries a man who is more interested in politics, but has few friends; Lavinia Eastwick marries a farmer whose goal is to acquire farmland; Almena Hurd becomes an expert butter-maker; Christina Koch and her husband are German immigrants; and Julia Wright regrets her marriage to a man who illegally sells whisky to the Indians.

Even though each married and traveled west from their homes in Minnesota, they all eventually wind up near Lake Shetek in Minnesota in 1862. An Indian war breaks out, and the five families are faced with capture. Native Americans White Lodge and Lean Bear of the Santee Dakota join their bands together and attack the white settlements in Minnesota and capture the women and children. A Foot Soldiers band of the Lakota tribe located further west oppose the Santee Dakota and attempt to rescue the captured women and children.

This novel is a sad commentary of how women were used and mistreated as they led, in many instances, lonely lives on the frontier. The author describes the experience of these five women using each chapter as a timeline which, of course, ends with the capture of several of the women. Fortunately, the author provides maps of the area and a cast of characters, which I had to refer to occasionally. The book is based on actual events, and the author knows the geography of the area and its history.