The Fugitive Wife

Peter C. Brown, Author . Norton $24.95 (412p) ISBN 978-0-393-06110-9

The 1900 gold rush to Nome, Alaska, sweeps up Esther (Essie) Crummey, the resilient and pragmatic title character of this evocative historical novel, Brown's promising debut. A Minnesota farm girl, Essie marries a drifter named Leonard Crummey, a volatile man burdened by a painful past. They begin a life together on their own fledgling farm, but the birth of a deformed son, Gabriel, and the devastation of their farm by a flood turn Leonard into a "hard husband." His alcoholism and unilateral decision to sell much of their land corrodes their marriage. After further disaster, Essie leaves. Headed for her sister's in Seattle, Essie helps in a dockside accident on a Nome-bound ship, an intervention through which she meets Nate Deaton, the earnest, East Coast–educated young foreman for the Cape Nome Company. He hires her for the Nome venture, and mutual respect and conversation draw them together despite their varied backgrounds. But a beleaguered, die-hard Leonard follows his wife to Nome, where he threatens the budding devotion between Nate and Essie. This is an eloquent, memorable first novel, with high-powered characters whose prickly exteriors, created out of the need to survive, hide affectingly yearning and haunted souls. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Paperback - 414 pages - 978-0-393-32975-9
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