Emma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick

Do not be intimidated by the size of this book. It is actually 3 books in one: A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm, and A Mending at the Edge. As with all of Ms. Kirkpatrick’s novels, this is based on real people. With exhaustive research the author brings to life the story of a young woman named Emma Wagner. She is a member of the Bethel colony in Missouri, in the 1850’s. It is a communal religious group led by Dr. Wilhelm Kiel. He is very controlling and domineering over every aspect of the member’s lives. I was not aware of this group until I read this book. I found their way of life fascinating and disturbing. Women’s dress codes were so strict they were not even allowed to have ruffles in their petticoats, yet the colony made whiskey for profit and saw no sin in dancing and drinking. Quite an inconsistency!
Emma’s story begins in, A Clearing in the Wild. She doesn’t fit the norm of the Bethel women. She is spunky and defiant of the strict rules. At 17 she falls in love with Christian Giesy, a man almost as old as her father! Dr. Kiel refuses to allow the marriage but Emma’s persistence wins. When the decision is made for Christian to find a new location for the community in Oregon, she convinces Dr. Kiel she is capable of going and cooking for the men. Unknown to anyone other than Emma she is expecting their first child. A secret she keeps until they are well on their way. The description of their journey, the land, and their hardships are incredible. When Christian locates what he believes to be the perfect place, Dr. Keil and the other colonists disagree. The couple faces conflict and rejection from the very ones they strived so hard to serve. Emma’s story is one of great faith, determination, and unbelievable courage.
A Tendering in the Storm continues Emma’s story. Christian and Emma decide to remain on the land they settled and live a separate life from the colony as oyster farmers. Life is hard but their love and the two precious children they now have bring them great happiness. Then tragedy strikes. Christian dies to save another person. Only a few days after his death she realizes she is carrying their 3rd child. With no family or community Emma bravely strives to care for her family and land. She refuses to join the new colony’s location but to stay where her and Christian settled.
Concerned Christian’s parents would take the children because they believed she could not care for them, she agrees to marry a man named Jack Giesy. The condition of the marriage is strictly in name only to make sure her children are safe. Sadly, Jack turns out to be an abusive man. Emma wants to runaway but has nowhere to go. Her faith in God is tested. This book gave even more insight into the suffering and adversities these people faced. Some of them were unbelievable and even more so that they didn’t give up.
A Mending at the Edge, Emma takes her children and flees her abusive husband, Jack. Her only choice is to return the Bethel colony and once again submit to the very tyrannical rules and leadership that she sought to escape. Dr. Keil commands her to attempt to reunite with Jack or be excluded from the colony. Emma works very hard to for the community and is in a position to obtain important things her family needs. Jack suddenly returns and according to the colony’s rules has the right to use the fruits of her labor for himself. Finally he leaves and Emma once again works hard to provide her family with a home. Yet every step of the way Dr. Keil continues to sabotage her efforts, placing heartless and unfair guidelines. She faces even more pain and heartache. Her faith and God and perseverance amazed me. Even under such insufferable circumstances she continued to show love and compassion for others and serve God.
As I have said before, Ms. Kirkpatrick is one of my favorite authors, but she has really out done herself with this trilogy. The story is riveting, moving, and intriguing. The historical details of these people and their times brought the story to life. I promise you when you finish the 1168th page you will be wishing there was more!
I received this book free from Waterbrook Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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