INTO THE WILDERNESS: THE
Forge April 2002
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson
After his wife and unborn baby are brutally murdered by Indians, Noah Wilde leaves his farm in Albany and becomes a Long Hunter, a trapper and scout. Noah's mother is English and his father is French and Mohawk. In addition to speaking French fluently, he also speaks several Indian dialects. This makes Noah a perfect candidate to spy for the English against the French and the Iroquois, who are friends with the French. At Pickawillany in Ohio Territory, Noah runs beside Miami, Huron, Ottawa, and French soldiers in their mission to attack this English trading post. A savage massacre takes place because Noah has no way of warning the English without blowing his cover. When it is over, Noah tells the French he is going back to scouting and trapping.
On the way back to Virginia to report to Governor Dinwiddie, Noah comes across a small group of Indians attacking a young English girl gathering wood. In coming to her rescue, Noah suffers severe wounds. The young girl, sixteen-year-old Jessica Matthews, helps Noah to her family's home where her mother tends his wounds. Noah has to remain at the Matthews farm several weeks in order to heal enough to travel. During this time, he and Jess fall in love, and Noah asks her to marry him. Before leaving for Virginia to complete his mission, Noah urges Jess's father to move his family to Albany. Western Pennsylvania is no longer safe from the French and Indians.
In Virginia, Governor Dinwiddie has already learned what happened at Pickawillany, and Noah is blamed for not warning the English. He is unfairly imprisoned and unable to return as planned to help Jessica and her family. As Jess's family loads the last wagon and prepares to leave, Indians suddenly attack, killing her mother, father, and older brother, and stealing her two-year-old brother. Jess is kidnapped by another group of Indians, and made to run with a leash tied around her neck for days on end. She refuses to cry or show fear. She is determined to remain alive, knowing Noah will find her.
According to the book jacket, Rosanne Bittner has written over "fifty books about Native Americans and the American West of the 1800's." With INTO THE WILDERNESS, the first book in a new series, she turns her talents to writing about the Eastern tribes, and the early settlers in America. We learn about the almost unbelievable savagery and brutality practiced by these Eastern tribes. Be warned, there are some very graphic scenes of cannibalism vividly portrayed in this book.
INTO THE WILDERNESS by Rosanne Bittner is a very good lesson in American History through a fictionalized account of well-researched facts. She points out the bravery of the early settlers who are caught between the French and Indian wars. The French wanted the trading rights, the English wanted the land, and the Indians wanted both.
The only problem I had with this story is the love between Jess and Noah. I simply could not wrap my mind around a twenty-seven-year-old man falling madly in love with a sixteen-year-old girl. I know girls matured and married very young in those days, but Noah is a man who has lived a wild, dangerous life, while Jess is young and innocent. In spite of that, I stayed riveted to the book, even through all the bloody scenes of fighting and death.
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