The Open Road

Written by M. M. Holaday
Review by G. J. Berger

The post-Civil War settlement of the West is portrayed through the lives of Win Avery, Jeb Dawson, and Meg Jameson. Best friends since childhood, in 1865 Avery and Jeb leave their homes in Nebraska Territory and join a wagon train. They find a young woman, Meg, alone on the prairie and on the run from a brutal uncle. Meg is beautiful, fearless, and rides a horse better than most men. Both Win and Jeb fall deeply in love with her, but they vow to not let Meg destroy their friendship.

Meg and Jeb build a home in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Win journeys deeper into uncharted land, all the way to Alaska, but always comes back to his best friend and his one great love.

An array of memorable characters—gamblers and outlaws, scientists and mapmakers, wagon train bosses and Native Americans, even a river boat songstress and John Wesley Powell—cross paths with Win, Jeb, and Meg. Through Gray Wolf, an Arapaho man, members of his clan, and others, Holaday describes the heart-wrenching treatment of Native Americans. Narrative historical passages fill in some background.

The lifelong love triangle of Win, Jeb, and Meg rings true, and the story honors the grandeur, tragedies and opportunities along this open road. Plot surprises and interesting bits of history are many. Despite lapses into conversations and too-perfect letters which read as if they were written in modern times, The Open Road is a well-paced, informative and enjoyable read.