This Road We Traveled

Written by Jane Kirkpatrick
Review by J. Lynn Else

This inspirational story is based on true-life events. In 1846, Tabitha Brown is 66 when her son’s family decides to head west. Son Orus fears the journey would be too difficult for Tabitha and urges her to remain in Missouri.  But when her daughter’s family joins the caravan, Tabitha hires her own wagon and refuses to be left behind. Readers will discover the trials and sacrifices as three generations of women travel the treacherous Oregon Trail.

Kirkpatrick’s attention to historical accuracy is astounding; however, I never felt fully drawn into the story. The prologue is unnecessary, as the events described in it are narrated differently later in the book.  The main characters are slightly underdeveloped. One character has the same argument with her husband repeatedly, which was frustrating. Additionally, major events aren’t portrayed clearly.  At one point, a wagon tips over as Tabitha tries to get off, yet the descriptions are so brief I could not visualize how it happened.  How did she avoid getting crushed?  How were the oxen detached from the wagon when it fell backwards? Kirkpatrick’s prose is poetic but not always fluid. This becomes a drawback when events are described piecemeal through short character thoughts or incomplete sentences.

However, Kirkpatrick does a great job with narrating faith journeys. During trials or uncertainties, Tabitha’s ruminations about God’s love and her faith are charmingly conveyed.  Kirkpatrick presents lovely, inspiring ways to overcome difficulties and doubt through her characters. Answers are often found where you least expect them, and she masterfully develops plot elements involving trust and hope.

Overall, this is an interesting read. The map is extremely helpful, but for someone like me with little knowledge of this time, I found the book lacking clarity and focus.  However, I would highly recommend it for readers familiar with the period.