The Daughter’s Walk
by Jane Kirkpatrick
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Source: I received an ARC of this book from Amazon Vine for review last year, but I ended up listening to the book on audio which I got from my library.
Taken from an actual historical event, author Jane Kirkpatrick tells the story of suffragette Helga Estby who, in 1896, accepts an almost impossible task. Starting in her home state of Washington, she must walk across America to New York City within seven months. If she succeeds she will receive $10,000, which will save the family farm from foreclosure. Along the way, she will be promoting a new dress style and showing that women are strong and independent. Taking along her 18-year-old daughter, Clara, the women set out on their journey. They are met with numerous obstacles, threatening situations, and illnesses that hamper their progress. When they return home over a year later, they are met with severe hostility from the rest of their family and are forced to never speak of “The Walk” again. Clara, unable to accept these new restraints put on her, chooses to leave the family and make her way on her own, attempting to achieve financial independence of her own doing.
The book starts off fantastic. A mother and daughter embark on a journey together to help save their family’s livelihood. They must earn money to support themselves by taking odd jobs, selling their portrait, or speaking at events. They must battle the elements, people, and most of all, each other, if they are to make it. During their walk, secrets are revealed, memories are shared, and the women form a close bond. Since so few historical details remain from the actual walk, the author did use the historical premise to create a fictionalized version of the walk as it could have happened back in 1896.
However, “The Walk” only encompasses a small part of the book, which is disappointing. Much of it recounts the details of Clara’s life after the walk when she left her family to make her own way in the world. I feel that this is when the book lost some of its luster. Clara meets and begins to work for two women, Olea and Louise, who become like family to her. These women are not fictionalized. They were actual people who were part of the real Clara’s life (in fact, the author uses the real life names for nearly all of the characters in the book). Since these women are involved in the fashion industry, Clara becomes interested in it as well. The book takes an odd turn and seemed to meander endlessly about the fur industry and animal-trapping, which is not what I was expecting. Clara seemed to be trying to find her way in the world through any means necessary that would bring her financial gain.
This book is classified as Christian Fiction and there is an overarching theme of God’s provision throughout the book, but it does so in an unassuming way. Clara does seem to struggle with her faith, but the end of the novel did not bring any full resolution to that issue.
The narrator is fantastic. Each character’s voice is distinguishable and well-accented. I really enjoyed listening to this book mainly because of the narrator. The story bored me at times, but I liked hearing each character’s voice come to life.
Overall, this is a good book. It was not quite what I was expecting after reading the synopsis. I thought there would be more of the walk, so I was disappointed by that piece of the novel. I was also expecting more of a resolution to Clara’s faith journey considering the book is in the Christian fiction classification. It’s a nice story spanning many years, but it did not quite live up to what I expected.