So, I just finished Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness.
Oh my GOSH! I fell in love with the wilderness, frontiersmen, sassy heroines, and reading all over again! Truly, this book is one of the best I have ever read - but then it had all the things I love - the wilderness, frontiersmen . . . You. Get. The. Idea.
Oh, and it also has The Last of the Mohicans.
Yep - you read that right. Nathaniel Bonner, our hero (to die for), is the son of Hawkeye and Cora of The Last of the Mohicans fame. In fact, Hawkeye is also in the book, as is Chingachcook. The waterfall in the movie where Hawkeye and Cora part ways is in the book, and there are other references to the movie as well. To be fair, though, I should point out that in the book of the same name by James Fenimore Cooper, Cora dies at the end.
But enough of such unnecessary details . . .
Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati’s epic novel sweeps us into another time and place .
. . and into a breathtaking story of love and survival in a land of savage beauty.
It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered—a white man dressed like a Native American: Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, Elizabeth soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as with her own family. Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portait of an emerging America.
Now, before I go on, let me say that the cover above is the latest cover, and the edition I read was probably an original cover. And is not the one above drop dead gorgeous?
But again, I digress . . .
I cannot say enough great things about this read. It was long and deep. I felt as if I was in the character's skins. The wilderness woke alive and haunting and beautiful. The love between Elizabeth and Nathaniel is well-played, intense, and, at times, harrowing. They really wish to love one another and to live out their lives peacefully at Lake in the Clouds, but the forces arrayed against them deem otherwise. And as the book ends, a new and alarming fear threatens the hard-fought peace they have found.
And yea - you can bet I have the second book, Dawn on a Distant Shore, already in my hands.
If I HAD to find a fault with this book, it would be with the dialgoue. First, Nathaniel's speech is at times stilted. Donati, In an effort more than likely to ruralize him and probably to show a contrast to Elizabeth's provincial and educated background, has him use the word ain't in his speech, with an occasional got thrown in for good measure. The problem is that the use of those words jarred me, at least, out of the story. Of course, I once got a bad review for using the word ain't because it technically was not in use until the 1800s. (And, of course, I had to go research, and low and behold, it was not used during the colonial period.)
I also think Donati could have colonialized everyone's speech. People at that time spoke more formal English and used less pronouns and be verbs than people today. The words she uses are not so much modern as the pacing of the language itself. Also, Elizabeth's Quaker uncle, who shows up toward the end of the book, does not speak correctly. But if you know anything about me, you know how much trouble I had with Quaker dialogue in my first book, Keeping Secrets. I will say no more about that.
As a counterpoint to these two snippy complaints, Donati does a great job interspersing Native American words in just the right way to bring their culture to life within the culture of the white population.
And, of course, none of the dialogue takes away from the breathtaking scenery, a twisty, fast paced plot, and a love that grips and won't let go.
Now, if you don't like sex in a book, don't pick this one up. While the interactions between Nathaniel and Elizabeth are not overly graphic, and body parts are never mentioned, some of the love scenes are of an intimate nature, and at least one takes place in an eyebrow raising location. (Yea - that was my second complaint!) Most of you probably won't bat a lash at such interactions, but I do have readers that take offense at anything more than a chaste kiss.
As for me, I was having Nathaniel and Elizabeth withdrawals in the interim between finishing this book and waiting on the next. I tried to start a book by another well-known author, but had SEVERE trouble getting into the story.
It was a light read. And I didn't want a light read.
It was a simple read, and I didn't want a simple read.
So I waited until Dawn on a Distant Shore arrived at my local library. When I am finished with it, I have four other books beyond that, as well as other Donati books.
I am in more than a little bit of book heaven right now! Truly, Donati reminded me why I not only love to read, but why I so much wished to write as well!
To purchase the book from Amazon go here.
You can find Sara Donati's website here and under her real name - Rosina Lippi.