The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle)
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Six years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, A Thousand Acres, and three years after her witty, acclaimed, and best-selling novel of academe, Moo, Jane Smiley as soon as once more demonstrates her extraordinary vary and brilliance.
Her new novel, set within the 1850s, speaks to us in a wonderfully quirky voice–the robust, wry, no-nonsense voice of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, a younger lady of braveness, good sense, and good coronary heart. It carries us into an America so violently torn aside by the query of slavery that it makes our present political battlegrounds appear a peaceful kingdom.
Lidie is tough to scare. She is sort of shockingly alive–a tall, plain woman who rides and shoots and speaks her thoughts, and whose easy methods paradoxically quantity to a form of glamour. We see her at twenty, making a very good marriage–to Thomas Newton, a gentle, sweet-tempered Yankee who passes by her hometown on a harmful mission. He belongs to a gaggle of rashly courageous New England abolitionists who dedicate themselves to settling the Kansas Territory with like-minded people to make sure its coming into the Union as a Free State.
Lidie packs up and goes with him. And the novel races alongside them into the Territory, into the maelstrom of "Bloody Kansas," the place slaveholding Missourians continually and viciously conflict with Free Staters, the place wandering youths kill you as quickly as have a look at you–where Lidie turns into much more fervently abolitionist than her husband because the younger couple repeatedly barely escape entrapment in webs of atrocity on each side of the nice query.
And when, abruptly, cold-blooded homicide invades her personal intimate circle, Lidie doesn't falter. She cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and rides into Missouri searching for the killers–a lady in a fiercely male world, an abolitionist spy in slave territory. On the run, her life threatened, her wits sharpened, she takes on yet one more identity–and, within the very midst of her masquerade, discovers herself.
Lidie grows more and more necessary to us as we observe her travels and adventures on the feverish eve of the Struggle Between the States. With its crackling portrayal of a completely particular person and splendidly articulate lady, its storytelling drive, and its highly effective recapturing of an virtually forgotten a part of the American story, that is Jane Smiley at her enthralling and enriching greatest.