In the mid 1800s the United States is just beginning to explore their wilderness. For a variety of reasons people leave the comfort of everything they have ever known to move on to a wild and dangerous country, full of hope and dreams with adventure and possibilities. Gold is discovered in pockets of new areas, which increases the draw, as well as the lawlessness of those so bold. St. Louis becomes the gateway to the new frontier with the unforgiving land beckoning those men and women either brave enough or desperate enough to take on the challenge. This freedom is also known worldwide, and people are drawn to the new frontier, with the promise of freedom, land, and riches drawing them from their homes all over the world. It is a time of change and challenge, a time of discovery, both of the land and those hardy souls that challenge the danger and the elements to make their way to a new life.
In Threads West, by Reid Lance Rosenthal, we meet and follow a group of individuals on their journey. Each of them is from different and diverse backgrounds, with a variety of reasons drawing them to the wilderness. Johannes Svenson is a ladies man, run out of the very country he called home, caught dallying with the wife of The First Minister of Denmark. His journey to the new world is decided for him.
The S.S. Edinburgh is the ship, headed to a new and distant land, and it is here that Johannes meets Reuben Frank, on his way to America to claim land and begin a cattle ranch for his family. Here too we meet three unique and diverse women, all traveling on their own, an experience unwarranted and unusual in this time in the annals of history. Sarah Bonney has lost her family and is headed to the new world to work with her aunt as a seamstress. Inga has been in the U.S for a time, and is making a living the very best way she knows how. She is a waitress but occasionally has to sell herself to make ends meet. She has learned a hard lesson in the ways of the world, and has decided that a girl has to do what a girl has to do to get by. Rebecca Marx is heading to the new world at the behest of her father’s will. He has found some land and she is there to claim it. She is very refined and unlike most of those traveling to find their place.
And with all the good, their usually comes the bad, and in this group of individuals that meet and interact on their journey to America, we also meet Jacob O’Shanahan, a bully and a taker, one of those who feel that the world is theirs if only they can find a way to connive and steal what is worth the taking. His life too is tangles and weaved into and around the lives of those other few, all headed in the same direction, out to find their place in this new frontier.
Zebarriah Taylor, or Zeb as he is known, has his own part in this compelling and historical drama. Well inured to the ways of the west, with an understanding of the country itself, his life is drawn into and becomes a part of this group of individuals, guiding as well as helping to protect them in an aggressive and dangerous land.
Rosenthal has written a wonderful western saga, and peopled it with characters that you can care about. Each of them has internal struggles, and yet they are strong and brave, and in some cases reckless. As we follow their journey into a new land, as well as the growth of their characters, we become immersed, wanting and hoping to see them through. And while evil may be too strong of a description for Jacob, he is certainly not a very good man. The story is smooth and endearing, as they make their way. Rosenthal has drawn a likeness of the America of our history books and set it with the people that help us to understand the savage and yet ruggedly beautiful America of that time.
I am excited for the next installment of the series to come out. I am left wondering what will they find: is there really gold, and how do they come to terms with the different issues they are facing. This is an interesting and incredibly well written story, full of diverse characters and places.
If you love a good story, full of history both real and rugged, on a journey full of surprises, this is the book for you. It would be a great book for a book club, as well as for reading groups everywhere.