An Unseemly Wife – by E.B. Moore – independent book review – Historical Fiction (United States)

If you were one of the would-be pioneers considering a move out West in the mid 1800s and read AN UNSEEMLY WIFE, you would NEVER GO. A dark tale of the many, MANY difficulties faced by those who left everything behind to venture into the unknown. It’s NOT that the book isn’t an action-packed and  compelling story. It’s that the troubles feel relentless. Awarded three stars on Goodreads but 3.75 is more accurate.

Author E.B. Moore based her story on her grandfather’s own history. It begins in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1867. The protagonist is Ruth — a loving and dedicated wife and mother to her Amish farming family — her husband Aaron, three sons, one daughter, and a fifth child on the way. She is devoutly religious and, following the tenets espoused by the Amish elders, obedient to her husband. It is Aaron who decides that their family will fare better in Idaho, where farming land is abundant and readily available to new settlers. Against the wishes of the elders, family members, friends, and even Ruth’s own fears — they leave everyone they know behind and take off in their hand-made Conestoga wagon, eventually joining up with a wagon train

Line drawing of Conestoga wagon
Image from Wikipedia
E. B. Moore
Photo from her Website

Most of the book is the story of their trip west and it steeps readers in the difficulties they faced. Not so much those you might expect — like conflicts with indigenous people. More about disturbing interpersonal conflicts with fellow travelers, especially those suspicious of the separate ways of the Amish. But the truly devastating parts (for me anyway) had to do with the UNexpected difficulties and significant personal loss. 

So, yes I guess I recommend this book for understanding the resilience of and sacrifice earlier Americans made in settling the United States. But I would add the following content warning: you will need a strong stomach to finish this novel. And you may finish the book feeling that finishing was NOT a good idea. 

More about the author, E.B. Moore.

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