Westward Hearts: The Amelia Dale Archer Story

Barbara Riefe, Author
Barbara Riefe, Author Forge $22.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-86077-6
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Five intrepid women and their wagon-train comrades suffer hardship, battle Apache raiders and resolve old family conflicts in Riefe's latest feminist western (Desperate Crossing: The Jenny Sanders Pryor Story, 1997). In 1857, after Dr. Amelia Dale Archer (like Pryor, a real historical figure) is unfairly passed over for the position of chief of staff at the Philadelphia Hospital, she takes her lively granddaughters (whom she has cared for since their father's abandonment and their mother's suicide) to seek a less sexist society in California. The oldest of the four is a 23-year-old lawyer; the other three are teenagers in various stages of self-discovery and hormonal upset. A great story, true in its outlines, Archer's tale cries out for a more lively treatment. Riefe writes with grit, and the plot picks up as the novel goes on, but a tepid beginning, crude exposition and jarringly anachronistic dialogue ( ""I wish I had a camera""; ""Shut up, dad""; ""Get a grip"") ultimately render Riefe's treatment inadequate to her heroic subject. (July)
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