Impeccably written, this historical work of fiction about a young mother's westward trip with her abusive husband in the early 1800s is not for the faint of heart. The author's research seems exhaustive and the characterization of Marie Dorion is rich and believable, as are many of the other players.

Pierre Dorion is about to set off on the Astor Expedition as an interpreter. His wife, Marie, and their young son, Jean Baptiste, are to remain behind. But Marie isn't about to settle for that. She manages to find a way to join the expedition and soon wonders if she's made a grave mistake.

Many factors work against the trip, including hostile tribes, inexperienced leaders and the elements of nature. Pierre's abusive treatment of Marie doesn't help, nor his penchant for alcohol. Will they make it to the Columbia River and make history? Or will they all succumb to numerous disasters along the difficult route? (Aug., 400 pp., $13.99)

Reviewed by: 
Bev Huston