Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Mercer Girls, by Libbie Hawker (author), Amy McFadden (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2016

In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Asa Mercer traveled from Seattle in the Washington Territory to the mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts. His project is to recruit single women of good character to return to Seattle with him, to become wives to the loggers and and other hardworking men there.

He hoped to recruit 200 potential brides. He returns to Seattle with just thirteen. Among them are Dovey Mason, just sixteen, and fleeing her father's efforts to marry her off to a repellent man in an attempt to restore his business fortunes; Josephine Carey, 35 years old and fleeing a secret she shares with no one; and Sophronia Brandt, a minister's daughter in her twenties, with no more marriage prospects and a strong desire to spread the Lord's Good Word.

They are unlikely friends, but each being in her own way a bit of a misfit among the rest of the group, they find themselves bound together in the face of repeated challenges even before they reach Seattle. When they do reach Seattle, they find a rough, frontier town, and they each have to find their footing, in the face of a welcome that is sometimes not very welcoming, though they also find new friends.

Jo just wants to teach, not find a husband, for reasons she's not inclined to explain, though along the way Dovey and Sophronia have learned the truth. Sophronia, in addition to wanting to spread the Lord's Word, wants to find a good, Christian man who meets her high standards, so that she can marry. Dovey, more than anything, is determined to earn her own living and not lose her control of her own life in marriage.

It's a frontier town, and has its own unexpected opportunities. This is also the era when the suffragist movement is starting to gain steam, and the unlikely and sometimes contentious friends meet Susan B. Anthony and become involved in the movement themselves. It's an absorbing story of women on the American frontier, and the critical role they played in building the American West.

Jo, Sophronia, and Dovey are fictional individuals, but the Mercer Girls were quite real, and a vital part of the history of Seattle.

A very good story. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.