I love it when a moral appears within a story, or food for thought, and this novel gives one a lot to think about. Within the pages, there's a theme of acceptance. Accept yourself and others for who you/they are. Don't try to change people and don't try to change yourself for others. Fernanda, the heroine, is a girl who must realize this and also must learn to accept not just one, but both cultures she comes from. She half Spaniard, half Pima Indian. Why is one considered better than the other? It shouldn't be...
And her gift is a gift of truth. What begins as a trek across Mexico into California with a large group of settlers becomes a journey to find the truth, about herself and her Pima history.
The trek itself was fascinating. The settlers face all kinds of hardship as they ride mules and horses across the desert and up into the mountains and across rivers. Along the way they face water shortage, freezing-cold temperatures, starving animals, and meet a variety of friendly Native American tribes. I really enjoyed this part, seeing how the Yumas and Pimas interacted with settlers, learning about their dress, discovering their troubles with the missions. It brought up another good question/food for thought: when does organized religion become a form of slavery?
Obviously, I got very wrapped up in this story and it evoked a lot of ponderings. I appreciate stories that do that and Ms. Covella gets a huge thumb's up from me.
Fernanda is a young woman with typical young-woman emotions: insecurity, selfishness, jealousy, oppression. She's confused about her heritage, about what's expected of her vs what she wants to be. She has a huge load placed upon her shoulders and must care for a family long before she's ready. The fact she faces all this while on this excruciating journey is admirable. At times, I didn't care for her actions, but in the end, she "grows up" and realizes her mistakes and attempts to change them. I really like this heroine.
The only thing I didn't care for is the love triangle. It was necessary to the story but at times was just kinda juvenile. But this is a young adult story, so it's to be expected. It just went on too long for me.
Much thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for a digital galley.
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