Title: Penelope’s Pursuit
Author: Chautona Havig
Series: Part of the Westward Home and Hearts Mail-Order Brides collection
Major Themes: Mail-Order Brides, Abuse, Faith, Mysteries
Synopsis: When Penelope sets out in search of her long-lost sister, she encounters far more difficulties and unresolved mysteries than she ever expected.
I finished reading a book several weeks ago and decided I wanted another one by one of my favorite authors. We have quite a few that I haven’t read yet, but when I told Mom my list of options, asking for her opinion, she said, “Read Penelope’s Pursuit!” So I did. And wow, was it good!
I’m fairly certain I read Sarah, Plain and Tall in school when I was younger—but I cannot remember how the story goes now. Since then, to my knowledge, I haven’t read a mail-order bride story. So this felt like new territory to me when it comes to historical fiction—even though I’m familiar with the concept.
Penelope is determined, now that she has nothing to hold her down and no one to tell her to do otherwise, to track down her long-lost sister. Priscilla disappeared ten years ago, leaving a note saying that she was going to marry a man out west whom she had met through an agency, and would write when she was settled to tell them where she was. Since then, Penelope and her family haven’t heard a word—and she is worried. Where is her sister? Why didn’t she write? The truth, once she found out, was startling and heart-wrenching.
Chautona Havig often writes books that aren’t the easiest to read, but they are some of the best to read. Penelope’s Pursuit reminded me of her book Shattering Secrets in some ways, because she explores some of the darker sides of life that people have to face sometimes. When we typically think of mail-order brides, we think of a lonely man out in a cabin on the prairie somewhere, who decides he wants a wife and through a process, he gets a willing woman to come meet him. After that, it’s simple—they like each other, and it’s happily ever after—right? Maybe. Sometimes. Havig asks the question, “What about the times it wasn’t happily ever after? What about the women who were sucked into nefarious schemes against their will?” It isn’t a pretty picture—but, honestly, I think her portrayal here could be all too true for some people’s stories.
I really appreciated reading Penelope’s Pursuit. It wasn’t an easy read, but it showed an important piece of history. This story isn’t all doom and gloom, though. I loved the mystery here, and I also loved the natural friendship that grew throughout the story. Several scenes were downright hilarious, and the ending? It was perfect. This wasn’t a long read, but one I’d definitely recommend.
Be warned: Some things in here may be triggers for some people. PLEASE read the warnings before you read this book! There was one scene that Mom told me she just skimmed; I went ahead and read it, but yeah…it isn’t pleasant, even though I understand why it was in the story.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: A girl is kidnapped in ch. 2. Brothels and some of the things that happened to people in them is discussed (in a discrete manner) throughout this book. There is mention of suicide in ch. 12, and abortion is mentioned in ch. 15. There is a suicide in ch. 19, and a kiss in ch. 22. Opium dependence is also referenced throughout the book. Several times, unmarried characters are alone together for an extended period of time.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults