Each story in this lively anthology is like a tintype photograph—a moment in time that eloquently and simply tells a story. These vignettes are pieces of American history revealed through the characters' experiences; some tell of pivotal events, while others are just explanations of daily occurrences. Some are funny, others just moving. But all are connected by a thread—these were the women who braved the frontier.

There is the romantic and funny tale of the wife, reunited with her husband after two years, who makes too much noise in the afternoon and is arrested as a "Fille de Joi." Or the story that I found most touching, the tale of laundress Mary Murphy, whose stalwart inner courage in the face of great adversity makes an impression on a young officer. The very simple tale of a young wife outranked from quarters to chicken coop to tent in a few days, who handles the situation with good humor, teaches us to take one day at a time and be grateful for small mercies.

Some of the stories are only five pages long, others 25, but all of them speak to the heart. Carla Kelly evokes images of the people and the land that stay with you and allow you a glimpse into the real history of the West. You don't have to read these stories in order: All that matters is that you read them, imagine the people they're based upon and how strong they were and finally, give thanks they were there. SWEET (Apr., 250 pp., $17.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin