Into the Wilderness
By Sara Donati
Delta, September 2008
About the Book
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 portrait of an emerging America.
Looking for an “Outlanderish” big book to tide you over until the TV Outlander series returns? This is a solid option.
Into the Wilderness is highly descriptive, vivid, and moving. The land becomes another character in this adventure romance of life on the American frontier in the late 18th century. It’s important to say that the romance is masterful, and I can’t stress that enough. Here you’ll find a love story as stirring as that of Claire and Jamie.
The historical detail too, is exceptional. The facts about the Mohawk way of life, language, and culture are stunning and make the story so real you feel as if you’re walking along behind Elizabeth and Nathaniel through the bush. The reference to Outlander characters Jamie, Claire, and Ian is brief but bright—a worthy homage to a “pioneer” of the genre.
This solid footing helps a reader to (almost) overlook some of the books’ bigger weaknesses, namely some cartoonish secondary characters (Julian and Billy Kirby couldn’t be more stereotypical in their buffoonery), an often lagging narrative (hard to avoid in an 800+ page book), and some rather trite cultural spats that are replayed over and over. When a point is overplayed, it usually diminishes its impact. But the strength of the romance and beauty and wildness of the landscape manage to conquer most and carry the story through the rougher parts.
Overall a worthy tale, haunting and deep. It will take you back to Outlander in a moment.