Synopses & Reviews
Weaving a tapestry of fact and fiction, Sara Donati's epic novel sweeps us into another time and place...and into the heart of a forbidden affair between an unconventional Englishwoman and an American frontiersman.
It is December of 1792. Elizabeth Middleton leaves her comfortable English estate to join her family in a remote New York mountain village. It is a place unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man unlike any she has ever encountered — a white man dressed like a Native American, Nathaniel Bonner, known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives. Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village, she soon finds herself locked in conflict with the local slave owners as well as her own family.
Interweaving the fate of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati's compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America.
"One of those rare stories that let you breathe the air of another time, and leave your footprints on the snow of a wild, strange place." Diana Gabaldon
"A powerful adventure story." People
"Each time you open a book, you hope to discover a story that will make your spirit of adventure and romance sing. This book delivers on that promise."Amanda Quick
"Epic in scope, emotionally intense." BookPage
"A beautiful tale of both romance and survival...Here is the beauty as well as the savagery of the wilderness and, at the core of it all, the compelling story of the love of a man and a woman, both for the untamed land and for one another." Allan W. Eckert
"The romance of the year when it comes to transcending genre boundaries and appealing to readers who love lush historical epics or thrilling backwoods adventures." Booklist
About the Author
Sara Donati is the pen name of Rosina Lippi. She lives with her husband, daughter, and various pets in an area between the Cascade Mountains and the Puget Sound.
Reading Group Guide
1. The town of Paradise and New York State was the untamed frontier at the time Elizabeth came from England to live with her father. What were her expectations from this new life? How were the personal freedoms she expected to enjoy compromised by her father as if they were still in England? By the people of Paradise?
2. Freedom to speak her mind, having her own voice and thoughts, is of utmost importance to Elizabeth. She aligns her beliefs with those of Mary Wollstonecrafts as stated in her volume The Vindication of the Rights of Women published in 1792. How does Elizabeths outspokenness serve her, positively and negatively? With Dr. Todd? With Nathaniel?
3. What do the reactions of the townspeople to Elizabeths school make you think about schooling today? Do you understand the locals concern that an expansive education—filling the childrens heads with philosophy, poetry, literature and the aristocracy—would make them unsatisfied with their lots in life, i.e. the girls wont be satisfied as a farmers wife?
4. Why are money, land and resources important tools to the Mohawk people, aside from the usual basic needs? Why do they hide and guard those resources? How does that compare with the role of money and resources as tools in your own life?
5. Money is an element in all their histories, a tool for all of them, rich, poor, greedy, generous, in the business of trade, etc. Women can not own land on their own; it must go into the hands of a husband should she marry. How does control of land, resources, wealth drive their lives? How does Elizabeths marriage to Nathaniel affect those resources?
6. Elizabeth says she and Nathaniel have power over each other. What evidence did you see of that mutual power? Do you feel that this is a contemporary issue, too?
7. Questions for readers of any of Sara Donati's Wilderness novels:
The northern and northwestern part of New York State was the nations untamed frontier in the late 18th and early 19th Century, the era of the Wilderness series. How does this frontier experience differ from that of the traditional western or “wagons west” description of Americas wilder places? How is it the same? Why was the settlement of upper New York State significant to people in Canada? To England? To France? To Holland?
8. Why is settlement by Europeans significant to the Native Peoples—and how do settlers like the Bonner family and others in the town of Paradise both complement and conflict with them? What roles do the slaves and the freed slaves, serve?
9. Discuss the Freeman familys activities in aiding runaway slaves flight to freedom. Do you think they helped these people, or contributed to setting the stage for continuing and future conflict for them? What role did the African Free School, and Manny Freemans association with it, play in the abolition of slavery? Do you think the Gradual Manumission Act was devised in a fair manner?
10. Most of the characters in this book have dealt with an eminent amount of loss. How have these losses shaped the characters weaknesses and strengths?
11. Author Donati uses wonderful place and character names drawn from the Native Language. Discuss the symbolism of the characters names (i.e. Walks-Ahead, Bone-in-Her-Back, Hawkeye, etc.). How do these names illuminate the characters themselves? Would you choose a descriptive name for yourself—and what would that be?