The Not So Quiet Life of Calamity Jane

Written by K. Lyn Wurth
Review by Thomas j. Howley

In 1862 in Missouri, Martha Jane Cannary is six, the oldest sister to crying baby brothers and sisters. Her often absent mother craves whiskey and dancing, and scratches coins from begging and the occasional dalliances with strange men. Her father is away even more frequently, gambling to earn drinking money and whatever he can bring home with him on the occasional visit. Martha Jane tries her best to care for her desperate siblings.

Two years later, things seem to improve as Pa wins enough to outfit a wagon to take the family out to the new and golden West. But good things never seem to last for Martha Jane. So, at eight years old, the little girl who will be known as Calamity Jane starts on her course to becoming one of her new country’s most colorful and often tragic figures. She works hard to keep her family together even when her unreliable parents don’t seem to care. And if she can’t care for them, she finds good people who will, or so she hopes. As time passes, she succumbs to drink herself along with becoming a thief, outrageous liar, brawler, and occasional prostitute. Yet Calamity is also an angel to sick men, a boon to beggars, a sure shooting gun hand, a soldier, Wild West Show star, and a devoted sister and mother.

Written in an earthy and poignant style from Calamity’s perspective, this novel succeeds in bringing her story to life in all its robust hellraising, along with its melancholy tragedies. The author excels and makes the reader care deeply about this American legend of the West. Recommended.