The Fugitive Wife, by Peter C. Brown

I really liked this book, but the whole time and after I'd finished I felt like there was something missing; I still, however, cannot figure out what that is.

The book takes place in 1900 and is about a woman from the midwest who leaves her inadequate husband after a series of errors on both their parts lead to their son's death. She makes her way out West, hoping to stay with her younger sister, but ends up following the ever-hopeful migration of humanity to Alaska in search for gold. Blessed with obstinacy and a business-like mind, Essie manages to make good for herself among the miners. Weaved into the story of the present is the story of how she and her husband, Leonard, met and married. In Alaska, the inevitable happens, and she becomes connected to a young man whose idealism led him to Alaska.

The writing is quite good and the book reads very quickly, but it came off almost as a poor man's Ivan Doig. The searing fact of Mother Nature is its own character, and the emotionally stunted characters who bloom into understanding echoes Doig's hardy, midwestern stock. The only unpredictable part of the book was Leonard himself, a man who knows he is all wrong and for all his faults and disturbing traits, ends up a surprisingly sympathetic character. But he must be sacrificed for the happy ending. All told, though, I did thoroughly enjoy reading the book, I just wish there'd been more to it.


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