As their wagon train leaves Missouri for California in the spring of 1845, pioneers have to survive terror, weather, and terrain; diseases they don’t understand, and dangers they do.
Hannah Blanc is a heart-sick physician beset by tribulations: the suicide of a beloved husband, unfair denial of her career, and a nightmarish new marriage of necessity to a vile man.
The guide, Nimrod Lee, is her on-again, off-again lover. He is an enigmatic mountain man who knows the trail, but is also looking for a daughter he lost, and a man he needs to kill.
Though they are lovers, Hannah and Nimrod each have enough baggage to fill one of the wagons. They are electrons and protons: they both attract and repel.
Indians can be friendly or dangerous, sometimes both in the same afternoon. Killer outlaws hover. But the gravest threat comes from the emigrants themselves adrift from their previous lives. Both bad and good manifest among them, but in the wilderness, bad can be deadly.
AN EXCERPT: The pioneers are caught in brutal cold high in the mountains.
…The pioneers hugged each other for warmth. They shivered in ragged, smelly clothes, and endured the wind as it moaned through fir branches and gave teeth to the cold. Hannah hoped that when dawn came, and it was time to rise, every one of them would.
For those companions, it was a night of misery of a terrible kind. There was no defense and no escape. Stupor was their refuge. The mountains’ intent was to break their spirits so they would quit the survival struggle and slide into death. Faint above the wind, sobs, moans, and prayers pleaded for deliverance. But nothing profane. Even the irreverent wouldn’t chance that. Eternity was too close.
They blamed themselves for joining a caravan that brought them to this place where death awaited. All the people back home who had urged them on did not realize what they were urging. The pioneers had learned an adventurer’s grim truth: It is better to die back home in one’s own bed, and among one’s own people, than to die where only crows and coyotes are interested.
1) Five stars from noted novelist K.C. Finn, for Readers’ Favorite
In Days of Hope, Miles of Misery, Fred Dickey has crafted a really interesting novel with plenty of historical flavor and detail. It is set during the pioneering time of the mid-nineteenth century when brave folk set out to create destinies on the harrowing Oregon Trail.
has crafted a really interesting novel
with historical flavor and heavy research. The characters, dialogue and
atmosphere are authentic and accessible. Struggling physician Hannah Blanc is
ahead of her time and makes an excellent central focal point. I highly recommend this book as an accomplished work of historical
2) Review by William E. Hill, historian and author, and founder of the Oregon-California Trails Assn.:
If ’n you’re hanker in’ for a historical novel that is full of adventure and that takes a hard look at the “elephant,” ie., the dangers and hazards, that so tried the emigrants going west, look no further, it is Fred Dickey’s Days of Hope, Miles of Misery. The story is set in the mid-1840s at the end of the fur trade and the beginning of Manifest Destiny on the then developing Oregon-California trail. It combines adventure and romance, personal conflict and hardships, celebrations and sorrows as a wagon train travels and encounters various dangerous situations on its almost 2,000 mile journey west to California.
Nimrod Lee was a grieving and former mountain man turned guide, and Hannah Blanc, a rebel for her time, and a recently remarried widower and mother, whom many modern women can identify with, are the featured characters.
The characters’ dialogue is realistic. An emigrant from the 1840-60s would feel at home in this novel. I would recommend this “good read” to my friends, - and you, are now one of them.
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