Richard S. Wheeler, Author . Forge $25.95 (383p) ISBN 978-0-312-87309-7

In a third sweeping historical soap opera (after Second Lives and Aftershocks), Wheeler follows the adventures of nine people struggling to survive in the wilds of rugged Oregon Territory in the 1840s. It has become the author's trademark to tell a vast historical drama through the eyes of multiple characters, and his skill at orchestrating massive movements is on display here. The backdrop is the unstoppable flood of American immigrants into Oregon, onto rich land controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company. Turmoil and uncertainty reign as British, American and Canadian settlers compete bitterly for resources, land, business opportunity and political power. John McLoughlin, the company's chief factor at Fort Vancouver, is torn between loyalty to his employers and the crown and his Christian duty to aid unwanted but starving immigrants. Garwood Reese, a scheming politician, hopes to drive out the British and become Oregon's first governor. Electra Reese is Garwood's sister-in-law, a beautiful widow whose cold and calculating heart seeks advantage from powerful men. John and Mary Kate O'Malley are Irish immigrants who seek freedom, but find only despair. Jasper Constable and his wife are Methodist missionaries, but their faith will be forever altered. Abel and Felicity Brownell are a wealthy couple from Boston, unsuited for pioneer life and perhaps for each other. Economic, political and personal conflicts, as well as the harsh realities of frontier life in undeveloped Oregon, will change all these characters in ways they never imagined. Wheeler is adept at portraying characters facing personal crises, revealing just how fragile and resilient people can be. Though the plot finally slips into melodrama, and story ends are left dangling (with an eye to a sequel?), Wheeler powerfully presents manifest destiny in action. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 448 pages - 978-0-8125-7909-3
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