Book Review

"All Together in One Place"
Jane Kirkpatrick

By Mary Matus


Like the Little House on the Prairie books, Altogether in One Place by Jane Kirkpatrick speaks to the spirit of adventure in all of us. Those who grew up reading about the adventures of the Ingalls family may feel nostalgic reading about the adventures experienced by the group of women in Kirkpatrick's book. The comparison to the Little House books is almost immediately noticeable when 19-year-old Mazy Bacon, a woman in 1850's Wisconsin, is attacked by a bull in the opening pages of the book. Like the Ingalls family, Mazy goes out West, though somewhat reluctantly, when her husband decides to take Mazy and her mother to Oregon, leaving behind everything comforting and familiar.

Despite some initial resemblance to the Little House book, Kirkpatrick soon takes the novel to another level. Mazy soon joins a large group of wagons to head out West. However, when almost all the men die from cholera and the rest leave the group, 12 women must continue the journey on their own. The simple frontier story becomes a story about 12 women bonding through tragedy. Despite not knowing each other (and in some cases not liking each other), the 12 women become a family.

On another level, the women each try to find their own voices and independence. Although the women range from the pious and wise Sister Esther to the independent Ruth Martin to the bitter, blind Suzanne Cullver, they each experience similar struggles for independence in a time when women were supposed to be dependent on men. Even if the reader does not know much about the United States in the 1850's, it is easy to identify with these women's struggle to find a place in the world.

Despite the complex relationships discussed in the book, the story is, in essence, an old-fashioned adventure story that can appeal to anybody who has fantasized about exploring new land, and finding new challenges and opportunities. It is this adventurous spirit that will most likely draw readers into the story, but it is Kirkpatrick's compassionate portrayal of women drawn together by tragedy that will touch the reader's heart.

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