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Follow The River (1986)

Follow the River (1986)
4.2 of 5 Votes: 4
0345338545 (ISBN13: 9780345338549)
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Follow The River (1986)
Follow The River (1986)

About book: I chose to read "Follow the River" by James Alexander Thom not so much to be entertained and inspired by the story of Mary Ingles’s escape in 1755 from Indian captivity and her torturous return from the Ohio River to her family’s frontier settlement west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had read about her ordeal, it being a true story, years ago. I wanted to see how Thom dealt with what I anticipated would be two major difficulties: description of her surroundings and portrayal of her thoughts and emotions. Being that Mary was isolated so much and that she was forced to trek through wild, diverse terrain, I recognized that surmounting these difficulties would be a substantial achievement. Thom explains at the end of the book that he traveled Mary Ingles’s route home as part of his research. Not surprisingly, his description of her surroundings is genuine, readily believable. Included in much of his description is sharp sensory imagery, derived, I am certain, from close personal observation."Thunder grumbled, lightning flickered on the horizon, and as the clouds climbed, a blast of damp air shivered the surface of the river and turned the leaves of the forest white side up. Soon the thunderheads dominated the whole sky above the river; they came gliding across, their undersides lowering and dragging gray veils of rain under them. Birds and insects fell silent."Equally impressive is Thom’s ability to describe Mary’s physical suffering, so necessary to evoke reader identification and empathy. In this passage near the end of the novel Mary is scaling a steep incline between two immense, vertical pillars of rock."She hung there for a moment, saw a leafless dogwood sapling two feet above her head. She got her numb left hand up to it and around it, forced the fingers to close, and pulled herself, panting and squinting, a little further up, her naked abdomen and thighs scraping over snow and rock and frozen soil, her cold-petrified toes trying awkwardly to gain traction."Thom’s ability to narrate Mary’s thoughts and emotions is equally vital to the success of the novel. One aspect of her thought processes is her wavering allegiance to God. How could a benevolent, omnipresent Lord countenance the horrors she had witnessed and the miseries she daily endured? I appreciated especially these thoughts, which follow her successful ascent of the steep incline partially described above."She lay with her face against the frozen dirt and had her say with God.Lord, I’ll thank’ee never to give me another day like this if I grow to be eighty.No one deserves a day like this.This is the most terrible day I’ve had in a hell of terrible days and I’m no’ grateful for it.Now give me the strength to make my way across and down this devil’s scarp. Do that and then maybe I can make peace with’ee."The detail of Mary’s ordeal makes the novel fascinating. Adding considerably to the tension of Mary’s situation is the presence of her companion, an unstable, middle-aged Dutch woman who becomes homicidal. Each chapter presents a specific conflict that is a component of Mary’s overall battle to survive and reach her destination. The story never loses momentum.At appropriate places Thom’s narration touches the reader’s emotions. I was especially moved by Mary’s leaving-taking of her infant child, born during Mary’s early captivity."Her hot tears were dropping on the baby’s forehead and would awaken it; little frowns were disturbing its face and its little beak of an upper lip sucked in the soft red lower lip. Mary couldn’t stop herself. She kissed the little mouth and then, with anguish that would surely kill her, she rose to her feet and stumbled, tearblinded, to the edge of the camp, her lungs quaking for release, her throat clamped to hold down the awful wail of despair that was trying to erupt.""Follow the River" deserves high praise.

Even though this is listed as historical fiction, it is actually based on a true survival story of a woman named Mary Ingles (no, not Little House on the Prairie) who was captured by Indians in the 1700's. I read this for book club, plus, I have always wanted to read it. Some stories take a while to set up, but not this one. From the first page I was pulled in. It started off perfectly and I wondered why I hadn't read it before now. The characters were easy to like, even Gretel. I was really captured by Mary's story. She was a young mother and just the thought that she had to endure the kidnapping, her new life and her escape was hard enough, but the fact that so did her children really tugged on the heart strings. She had no power to protect them. There were some parts during her escape, that I started thinking, "Okay already....Enough. Let's move on." I felt there was enough info given to get the picture, but it seemed to go on and on about certain aspects. So, the repetition was a little irksome.However, overall, I enjoyed this story.
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This novel is based on the true story of Mary Ingles, a young frontier woman living in western Virginia in the 1750s at the onset of the French and Indian War. Their settlement was at the far fringes of colonial development and vulnerable to attack from the Shawnee Indians. Many in her settlement were massacred, but Mary, very pregnant and about to give birth, her sister-in-law, her two young sons and another man from the community were kidnapped and taken deep into Shawnee territory well beyond any place that English settlers had ever ventured. This is the story about what happens when she is living with the Shawnees and how she escapes and finds her way back to her beloved husband where she then renews her life living well into old age. She endures far beyond what would be thought to be survivable during those six weeks of walking home. Her strength, fortitude and determination are both inspiring and heartbreaking. As a reader you share her triumphs, her sorrows, her pain and suffering and her dreams to ultimately find her way home against absolutely insurmountable odds. Wow, what a story. I just do not think that many men or women today would have that kind of frontier spirit. I would highly recommend this book. It is great historical fiction and I will definitely read more books by this author.
Anne Stevens
I found this book incredibly interesting. The amount of research author Jim Thom put into this novel almost reveals an obsession he must have had with the harrowing experience of Mary Draper Ingles. I was educated at a very young age by my archaeologist father about the early settlements of this region, as well as the life of period Indian tribes. Being a true Kentucky blue-blood, I was also educated on the clash between the two, the eternal struggle, and God-willing, those few who were able to
Elizabeth Aldape
This book was tragically beautiful. I felt so much pain for Mary and her other captives and almost couldn't bear the killing/burning scenes. Her decision to leave her children left me questioning what I would do. Would I have not looked at my newborn's face so I wouldn't create an attachment and could leave her behind? Would I have sacrificed my freedom and life to be with my children instead? Who knows. The journey home was beautiful, treacherous, and long, which describes how it felt to read it. Just as Mary and "Ghetel" trudged through the landscape - knowing where they were going and surrounded by beauty - I became semi lost in the descriptions of the land, what they ate, and how they felt. Thom's words were beautiful, but they got all mixed up and confused in my mind as I began to yearn for the journey to just be over. Good book, but eery on account of it being true. Pioneer women are something else and this book showed me that I might not have been suited for Mary's life.
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