Sunny Pathway

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Abercrombie Trail

It's time for book reviews and I'm going to share something dear to my heart today. Candace Simar, author of Abercrombie Trail: a Novel of the 1862 Uprising, is a friend. Rather than talk briefly about several books, I’ll focus on one.

The Background: The Sioux Tribe is pushed into impossible living conditions. When payments promised by treaties do not come and when fathers have no way to feed their families, the Sioux turn against the settlers. This makes sense to us today. But the settlers, many of whom cannot speak English, do not fully understand, They live on isolated farmsteads and they're afraid. Neither people-group understands the other’s culture, although this confusion is only portrayed by the protoganist. In addition, the ongoing Civil War adds another layer. It all leads to a series of tragic events that profoundly impact everyone living in in the area.

The Storyline: When Evan Jacobson's plans don't materialize after coming to America in hopes of a better life, he finds a job driving a stage coach on the Abercrombie Trail. While at Fort Snelling where the trail begins (near St. Paul, Minnesota), Evan forms a relationship with the historic Bishop Whipple. He also meets and comes to an understanding of sorts with one specific Indian. But on the trail to Fort Abercrombie (south of Fargo, North Daktoa), he forms relatioships with numerous Norwegian immigrants like himself. They become his community.

In addition to Evan’s love interest, there’s the marriage of his friend to Bishop Whipple’s housekeeper. (Her name is Solveig and I suspect she was modeled after me because she has large teeth!) There's a marriage between a Lutheran and Catholic (considered a mixed marriage in the time-frame). There are scenes describing the brutal aftermath of massacres. And more.

As in all good writing, details give life to a story. I found Evan's relationship with the horses especially endearing. They understand him when he speaks to them in Norwegian. He ultimately calls on his personal relationship with them in a run for his life and the life of his passengers.

Reader-Responses: Word of mouth is the best form of promotion. So here goes. My copy of Abercrombie Trail came in July—when it was hot off the press. I glanced at it briefly, thinking I’d read it later. Then I was drawn back and I didn’t quit reading until the wee hours of the morning. But, of course I would like it. I identified with the Norwegian settlers—and I had two sets of great-grandparents who lived close to the trail. I didn’t have to know the author to be interested.

So I decided to test it with my neighbors. Not too professional on my part as all these gals love to read. But they also know what they like. What would they think?

The first neighbor told me she didn’t like historical novels but she’d look at it. I think she was suspicious that it would have an overt Christian messge. A couple of days later she dropped by to tell me, This was really interesting. She also said she read it in one sitting.

(Candy identifies herself not as a Christian novelist but as a Christian who writes novels. Abercrombie Trail isn't specifically Christian, but the persepctive or worldview is compatible with Christianity.)

The second neighbor read it when we were gone in August. When she brought it back, she said, It was so good I read it twice. That's quite an endorsement.

The third neighbor didn’t think she’d get to it right away. After idly glancing through, she read it in two sittings. It was one of those riveting things, she said, and I just couldn’t put down. She grew up in Nebraska, knew nothing about Minnesota history, and isn’t even Norwegian.

The publisher, North Star Press of St. Cloud, is one of the small publishers springing up around the country. I was concerned after learning Barnes and Noble has decided they will not work with the smaller publishers, so you cannot buy a copy through them. I don’t know about other chain stores. But you may obtain a copy through Or, if you prefer, contact the publisher directly at The book is 285 pages long. Cost is $14.95.

One more plug: North Star is printing a second edition because of the demand.


Unknown said...

I read the book myself and couldn't seem to put it down even when the needs of my children demanded my attention. I decided to limit my reading periods to the many nursing times my new baby needed and forced myself to put the book down when her tummy was full. The book was so realistic that after I read about the raids, I dreamt about the Native Americans breaking into my home to take my children and scalp their blond heads.
There is never a dull moment in this book!

Solveig said...

Thanks Beth. You emphasize that it is, indeed, a gripping story.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait till the rest of the trilogy is published! It was great reading. I didn't know much about the history.