Reviewed by: Linda Tonis
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
When I first received this book to review I was sure I wouldn’t like it. I couldn’t imagine reading the daily life of someone and finding it interesting but I was wrong. The book flowed beautifully and I was totally involved in sixteen year old Eleanor (Nellie) Higgin’s life. The story begins in 1876.
Nellie’s father is a Lutheran Pastor who brutalizes his wife and children. He thinks nothing of beating, kicking and punching even the youngest child David. His last beating to his wife left her bed ridden. Her older sister Patsy left home at seventeen to live with an aunt in Chicago and before she left she gave Nellie a diary, a diary that became Nellie’s friend and confidant. Her father decided to move the family to the California territories but with the death of her mother and brother she was the only thing standing in the way of safety for her younger sister Annie.
The family found itself in the Dakota Territories where her father decided to pan for gold only what he did was find a prostitute and liquor and his temper just got worse and worse. It was a Jewish man named martin Leibowitz that would have a profound impact on Nellie and Annie’s lives. The only good thing that happened was that her father died and she got married to Martin. Martin is a photographer and was hired to follow Custer photographing him when he attacked the Indians. Martin, Annie and Nel travelled aboard a huge riverboat the Far East and even on board a ship trouble found them.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about what life was like for Nel and her sister Annie because it is something you have to read for yourself. The book was a study of the West and Custer’s Last Stand. It portrayed what the wives left behind suffered through. Nel was once again left on her own with a young sister and the constant fear about her husband. Unfortunately, she was not the only wife left suffering.
The author held nothing back when writing this novel, she didn’t sugar coat what the women went through or the fact that an entire black family, mother, father and small children could be hanged simply because a white man said they stole from him, no trial, no evidence just white against black. She painted the father as a barbarian who would stop at nothing if he was riled up. Sadly, abusing a wife and children is not something new to our generation.
Nel and little Annie saw things no child should see and Nel is very detailed in her description of everything she went through. The book is seen through Nel’s eyes and she tells her diary everything both good and bad. Every emotion she feels, every pain, every happiness she expresses in her diary and I felt it all.