An Unseemly Wife. E. B. Moore. Penguin Group (USA). October 2014. 336 pp. ISBN#: 9780451469984.
Ruth Holtz loves life as an Amish wife and mother in Pennsylvania but her husband has bigger, practical dreams of having enough land to yield enough crops and farm products for a large, large family. Ruth also loves the care and cooperation of the Amish community and can’t imagine living without them. At first Ruth thinks it’s nothing but her husband’s fantasy, so imagine her surprise when Aaron announces they are heading for Idaho. The novel travels back and forth between their animosity once the decision is made without her input and the immense difficulty of their journey in a home-built Conestoga wagon. The latter is an adventure in itself!
At first the challenge as they travel is nothing more than a sense of Ruth’s grief at leaving behind family, friends and the Amish community. But then rainstorms, cold, floods, ice, disease, and trouble with the “English” whom they meet looms larger and larger to the point where Ruth wonders if they will ever finish what seems to be a God-forsaken journey.
During the trip Ruth makes two good friends, Hortense a preacher’s wife and Sadie a tough little woman, and much later other friends who become her new world. Each new person has his or her own motives and ultimately some turn out faithful and one in particular an unexpected betrayer. Sadly enough there are several huge losses that almost take away Ruth’s survival spirit and make her question God and her prayers to him for so much.
An Unseemly Wife is a lovely and tough story that never fails to keep the reader totally engaged. The reader wants so much for Ruth and the author satisfies, while never giving up honesty as in Aaron’s stubborn will regarding the future. In some external ways, Ruth is a stereotypical woman of the time, but the author makes the internal thoughts and feelings of Ruth uniquely real and fascinating as this woman changes from a compliant, meek woman to a strong, even tough, woman, manifesting the strength necessary to live a fruitful life in the American West. Her and her family’s journey with its losses and triumphs is symbolic of so many who became part of the westward expansion of America’s borders. E. B. Moore depicts it so well and gives the reader a wonderful read in the process!