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I’m kind of on an Oregon Trail kick right now.  This book is a fictional account of a real woman, Mary Rockwood Powers.  Powers wrote letters home to her family, describing their journey, and this book is based on those letters.  The title is certainly an accurate description of this family’s journey.  Mary’s husband scorned advice from experienced trail travelers and purchased beautiful horses to pull their wagon instead of oxen, left late in the spring, and began the journey alone without a wagon train or adequate provisions.   Once on the trail, her husband had a mental breakdown, and Mary was suddenly responsible for making life or death decisions for their family.  Step by step, Mary led her family to California, somehow managing to outlast the trail.

While I certainly admire Mary’s courage and determination, the book itself was somewhat exhausting to read.  The journey was long and harrowing, and there were few lighthearted moments to break the monotony of the struggle.  In that, O’Brien did an excellent job of portraying to the reader a small glimmer of what life on the trail must have been like.