Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas

An Interesting First Person Account of Life in the Untamed West

To introduce the concept of the diary, the author sets the stage with the discovery of the book among the belongings of an elderly neighbor who is about to move. The introduction and plan to transcribe the diary is brief and we get immersed in the story of one woman's journey almost immediately.

Mattie Smith is 22 when the handsome Luke Spenser proposes to her. She describes herself as "plain" and on her way to be an old maid when he asks her if she would join him in settling in Colorado. The courtship is nonexistent but more of a proposal. . . Mattie is amazed and happy to find herself in this situation and new adventure and immediately accepts, leaving behind her family, her job and her best friend.

Mattie starts out as an idealist with a pragmatic sense about her. She sets her sights on being the best wife she can be and looks at ways to make her new life work. Life is full of challenges in both the journey west in a Conestoga wagon and once they settle on Luke's claim.

The journal provides insight into Mattie and her feelings without being overdone. It seems "true" the time period and her entries evolve as she discovers herself and negotiating a relationship with another person who really starts out as almost a stranger. Mattie develops into a woman that does abide by most social conventions of the time but learns to assert herself when needed, especially given the harsh reality of where they live.

This is not a fairy tale and Mattie's life is often difficult and harsh. Her marriage is not always ideal (I don't want to give anything away) and there are Indians to contend to, as well as a lack of many of the conveniences she used to have in her previous life, including medical care.

At one point I was planning on giving this book a negative review as it was making me a little angry as I rooted for Mattie but I learned that it would play out in time and that the story was able to come to a full circle that I was satisfied with. It was realistic and I think the best outcome given the circumstances.

I really recommend this one. Easy read but very insightful. It was really was a sweet read.

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