Wild Ran the Rivers: One Family’s Western Odyssey (Five Trails West)

Written by James Crownover James D. Crownover
Review by Jo Ann Butler

“My grandpa was a pirate on the Mississip,” says Zenas Meeker of White Sands, New Mexico. His half-Cherokee grandmother, Ruth Fourkiller Harris, is just a teen when her family seeks free land in the Louisiana Purchase. Tragedy strikes when river pirates kill her parents, and Ruth is sold to one of them as a wife (not graphically depicted). For the next eight years Ruth despairs of ever escaping. Then the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 make the pirates, and much of the Midwest as well, think the world is coming to an end. New islands rise, the Mississippi River runs backwards, and Ruth’s family makes their escape westward.

James Crownover opens his promising Five Trails West series with Wild Ran the Rivers. Written with an eye to detail and historical accuracy, it is suitable for adults and YAs. The vernacular language is sometimes cloying, but Wild Ran the Rivers is an entertaining tale of frontier life and family survival. Ruth’s struggle to keep her family together will draw you in, then Crownover’s gripping earthquakes keep you up late into the night while they provide a vivid reminder for Midwestern readers – they could happen again. Try this one if you love frontier and Western fiction.