What It’s About:
In the summer of 1855, Sarah Brinton abandons her husband and child to make the long and difficult journey to Minnesota, where she will meet a childhood friend. Arriving at a small frontier post on the edge of the prairie, she discovers that her friend has died of cholera. Without work or money or friends, she quickly finds a husband who will become the resident physician at an Indian agency on the Yellow Medicine River. As one of the earliest settlers in the area, Sarah anticipates unease and hardship, but instead finds acceptance and kinship with the Sioux women who live on the nearby reservation. She learns to speak their language, nourishing a companionship with them which far exceeds that which she shares with her strange and distant husband.
An endless flow of White settlers are clearing the forests and claiming land. The government has yet to pay the Sioux the annuities awarded them each July for the sale of the land, and starvation and disease begin to decimate the Sioux community. What inevitably and tragically follows is the Sioux Uprising of 1862. While seeking safety at a nearby fort, Sarah and her two young children are abducted by Sioux warriors. They are unexpectedly kept safe by one of the men, who protects them until their rescue six weeks later by federal troops. Because of her sympathy for the Sioux, Sarah has become an outcast, falsely accused of marriage with her Native American captor. Vilified by the whites and despised by her husband, she is lost to both worldsGoodreads
Thank you to Knopf and Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Lost Wife was an engaging historical read. I loved that it is based off of a real life person, Sarah Wakefield, who wrote a book about her experiences as a captive. Sarah’s character in the book is unique in that she came from a harsh life working in an asylum for the poor with her deadbeat mother, and then later escapes from an abusive husband.
The writing style can be described as sparse and straightforward. It reads very similar to a diary. In addition to the writing style, the length of the book is less than 200 pages, which also made it very easy to get through the book. It’s hard to find short or fast paced historical fiction. I liked that this book is different in that sense.
The Lost Wife also attracted my interest with the inclusion of small details of the time period and setting location. This is always a plus for me because it helps me to understand more about the history in a different way. I haven’t read many books set during this time period and setting, so I learned quite a bit about what life was like for the pioneer settlers and the Dakota tribes. This book inspired me to seek out more sources to learn about Sarah Wakefield and the U.S. Dakota War, which I will share at the end of this post!
The Lost Wife is a perfect book if you are looking for a quick historical fiction story, or a story to introduce you to a piece of frontier history in the mid 1800’s. This book also reminded me in some ways of two other frontier/ Westward Expansion stories, Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and the tv series 1883.
News article: Minnesota Star Tribune – Sarah Wakefield’s 160-year-old account still illuminates our understanding of U.S.-Dakota War
Online Exhibit: Minnesota Historical Society – US-Dakota War of 1962 a resource for learning about the war, its causes, and its far-reaching consequences.
University of Minnesota – Holocaust and Genocide Studies – US Dakota War of 1862 Resource Guide