In 1896 Helga Etsby accepts a wager form wealthy fashion sponsors in New York City. She is to walk across the country, from Spokane, WA to NYC, wearing and promoting the new "reform dress" - a dress that is worn, scandalously, above the ankles instead of below. She has 7 months to walk the 7000 miles and if she does so, she will receive $10,000, enough to save the family farm from foreclosure.
In a choice that will change their lives forever, Helga decides that her 18 year old daughter, Clara, will accompany her on the walk.
Tragedy strikes while they are walking across the country. The resulting backlash forms a rift between Clara and her family; one that puts her in exile for over 20 years.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I enjoy learning about life in the past while still having the benefit of fiction to ensure a happy ending. This book did not deliver that.
I did enjoy all the details of turn of the century life in this book - how much things cost, the clothes they wore, etc. I was interesting to think that Clara was born almost exactly 100 years before I was. I also liked the strong women portrayed during the walk across the country. Helga and Clara did something most people today couldn't do.
What I did not enjoy was the fact that these women could not seem to catch a break the entire book long. Helga becomes broken and depressed while Clara becomes independent and stubborn to the point of alienating those around her. I know the book is based on true events, but it's also fiction. I think the author could have made some of the things in Clara's life work out happily.
In terms of actual writing style, I enjoyed the writing of the first section, the walk, better than the rest of the book. However, the author uses some terminology that a modern reader doesn't know, such as what a railroad trestle is. A bit more explanation would have been helpful.
I thought the second section of the book, the exile, was downright boring. There were a lot of details about the fur industry - trapping, auctions, manufacturing - that really just didn't hold my attention. The personal details of Clara's life during this time were very frustrating.
I did not enjoy this book and cannot give it a good recommendation.
I give this book 2 stars out of 5.