The Captain’s Wife
In the summer of 1856 Mary Patten and her husband, Captain Joshua Patten, begin what would become an incredible voyage aboard the clipper ship Neptune’s Car as it sails from New York to San Francisco. Events became bleak. The first mate’s behavior leads to a plot of mutiny and to his arrest. Captain Patten becomes deathly ill. Mary Patten assumes command and continually nurses her husband. Storms tax the vessel and threaten the crew’s safety through Cape Horn.
Kelley’s research is based on written documentation of the actual voyage. The lives of Mary, Joshua, and their son are recorded primarily in obituaries. By using facts and creativity, Kelley successfully illuminates the exploits of this young heroine. However, the novel suffers from a general lack of plot development. Expansion on Mary’s real life experiences could have enriched the storyline, and perhaps less description of sailing would have kept the focus on the characters. Despite these flaws, the author’s first effort is above the norm, and this book should have a wide readership.