Where the Lost Wander
By: Amy Harmon
My Rating: Four out of five stars
Best For: 16 and up
Love and Tragedy on the American Frontier
I’m not Amy Harmon’s target demographic, but I sure enjoy a good story.
Amy Harmon tells really great stories.
My first experience with Amy Harmon was The First Girl Child and The Second Blind Son, which was her first efforts in fantasy–Amy was kind enough to leave her comfort zone to come into mine. That’s how she hooked me, and now Amy Harmon’s got me reading girl books with swirly girl-writing superimposed over a scenic view with covered wagons on the cover. No swords or robots or spaceships or wizards in sight. Sneaky, sneaky Amy Harmon. Hook me with a gateway genre then push the harder stuff when I’m too weak to turn it down.
Now, my readers know I’m not nearly that shallow; I’m actually a very well-rounded reader. But I wanted to illustrate this point: Amy Harmon is doing a really great job writing on the edge of the one genre I generally avoid–romance. And I keep wanting more.
Where the Lost Wander is historical fiction. The story follows a wagon train of fictional characters as they travel the Oregon Trail in search of a new life. Along they way, the fictional characters meet all kinds of historical characters in context. The history is so well written with the fiction it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. I’m a sucker for that, and I thought it was really a really cool part of Where the Lost Wander. Native Americans Chiefs, real Frontiersman, actual geographic locations along the Trail–it’s all there, and it’s great.
A couple of the fictional characters fall in love along the way, and their love story is exactly the kind of slow burn, big finale event I learned I should expect from Amy Harmon. I enjoyed this part of the story too, although I personally like my love stories more as a side dish than a main course.
Spoiler alert (not really–we’ve all played the video game!): traveling the Oregon Trail was miserable. This story uses that misery to manipulate the emotion I felt towards the romantic relationship–well played Amy Harmon, but DANG! These characters experienced some really sad stuff. I’m firmly in the camp that in the best stories, the high has to be equal to the low. If the height of the high doesn’t at least match the depth of the low, then the story is more depressing than uplifting and I’m not quite as satisfied when I turn the final page. I felt like the highs and the lows were out of whack in Where the Lost Wander, and I was left feeling down instead of up.
But that doesn’t change the power of the story, and this was a great one. It’s been days and I’m still thinking about it. I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into something else by Amy Harmon. Maybe From Sand and Ash? I already have that one in my library.
There are no language concerns. There is some non-gratuitous sexual content, but not rated R, more like PG-13. There is a rape scene. There is violence, and some really sad things happen to the main character. I’ll say this story is best for brave 16 and up.