Desert Isle Keeper
Where the Lost Wander
Western romances used to be a staple of my reading life, but over the past several years, I’ve kind of drifted away from them. However, when I learned that Amy Harmon, one of my very favorite authors, was coming out with a new novel about a wagon train on the Overland Trail, I knew I had to read it. Where the Lost Wander filled me with all manner of nostalgia for those early romance-reading days, while managing to be a fantastic love story in its own right.
Widowed Naomi May is traveling west with her parents and younger brothers in the spring of 1853. Her late husband always wanted to claim land out west, and now that he’s gone, Naomi feels this is the best way to honor his memory. Plus, with her family also planning to set up a homestead, life back east doesn’t hold much appeal for her.
John Lowry has never felt at home anywhere. The son of a white man and a Pawnee woman, he feels adrift no matter where he lives, unable to fit into either world. He takes a job escorting a wagon train to Oregon, never dreaming he’d meet a woman as strong, resourceful, beautiful, and kind as Naomi May. The two are almost instantly drawn to one another, but John knows falling for a white woman isn’t smart.
As time passes and life on the trail becomes ever more perilous, both John and Naomi struggle with the strength of their feelings and wonder if they will ever be able to act on them. Naomi, who is quite sheltered, isn’t sure why John is reluctant to start a relationship with her. To her way of thinking, the fact of their love should be enough to conquer any hardships life puts in their path, and yet the negative attitudes of those around her slowly begins to convince her of the difficulties she and John would face as a couple. Still, she can’t stop longing for John, and the two eventually decide to get married.
Then, tragedy strikes, separating John and Naomi in ways that could spell the end of their loving relationship. Through unimaginable hardships, the two must fight to be reunited, even if the life they’ll live looks nothing like the one they’ve dreamed of.
Where the Lost Wander is a novel that’s sure to break your heart as you read. Amy Harmon is a master when it comes to creating soul-crushing scenarios for her characters, situations the reader is almost sure no one could survive. Fortunately, things do turn out alright in the end, but the journey is definitely a tough one.
There’s something so special about the love John and Naomi feel for one another. It develops quickly, something that may not work for all readers, but it works beautifully given the context of the story. Life hasn’t always been kind to John, and Naomi, though privileged in many ways, deals with a certain amount of prejudice due to what some view as her unladylike behaviors. Watching them come together in ways both physical and emotional warmed my heart. Each knows they can’t take away the other’s pain, but they’re both extremely determined to be as supportive as possible, even when things get tough.
I was especially pleased by the author’s depiction of Native American characters. They aren’t the stereotypical caricatures we so often see in the popular media. Instead, they’re fully fleshed out human beings with hopes, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses that allow the reader to get to know them as real people and judge them on their own merits rather than on their race. White people do terrible things, as do Native Americans, and those deeds are chalked up to the human condition rather than to the superiority of one race over another. Obviously, as a white woman, I can’t speak with any authority to how Native American readers might feel about Ms. Harmon’s depictions, but the author’s note at the end of the book gave me the impression she worked hard to create realistic and relatable characters.
I fell in love Where the Lost Wander from the moment I started reading. Ms. Harmon’s writing is gorgeous, filled with nuggets of everyday wisdom that apply just as much to modern life as they do to life on the Overland Trail. The historical detail is beautifully rendered, and the characters are compelling because of rather than in spite of their flaws. This is honestly one of my favorite romances so far this year, and I urge you to give it a shot as soon as you can.
Note: There is reference to sexual assault in the second half of the novel, but the description is not graphic.