Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tributary by Barbara K. Richardson

Claire Martin is an American hero.  She's not a politician or a cowboy or a military leader.  Instead, she is a woman in the frontier days of Utah and Idaho who does whatever it takes to carve out a life for herself.  Born with a birthmark that covers half her face, she never feels accepted in any social situation.

Claire's life starts with her as an orphan; handed from one Mormon family to the next as people needed someone to work for them.  Work is something Claire is familiar with and wherever she goes she gives a full days's work.  She finally finds solace when working for Ada, another strong Mormon woman.  Claire believes she has found a home, but when the son of a local church leader starts making advances to her, she realises that her only option is to leave and start over.

She chooses New Orleans, where she believes her mother came from before she left her as a small child.  The only work she can find is as a laundress in a hospital, a job not many people are ready to take on.  Claire works there, not caring that this is the African-American hospital, and that the patients there are considered not really worth saving.  While there, she becomes attached to a young boy, Tierre, and soon considers him her son.  When Ada's son writes Claire and asks her if she will come and help him start a sheep ranch, she leaves, taking Tierre with her.

Sheep farming is no easier than the other hard jobs Claire has worked at.  With hard work and persistence, she and Stephen and another farm hand make the ranch a going concern.  Things seem to be working out until Stephen gets religion and decides that he and Claire must marry.  Claire is determined to never be owned by any man and it causes another life crisis. 

Barbara Richardson has written a historical novel that details a life that is seldom thought worth mentioning but which created this country.  It is the life of one of the millions of hard-working women and men who carved out a living from persistence and labor; from simply refusing to give up.  Claire is a character readers will long remember; her pluck and fortitude make her the prime example of 'bloom where you are planted.'  This novel is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those interested in how the West was won.

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