About the Book
Book: Laura’s Shadow
Author: Allison Pittman
Release date: August 1, 2022
Family Secrets Spill One Conversation at a Time
Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.
De Smet, South Dakota—1890
Young women growing up in DeSmet live by two rules: don’t go out in a snowstorm and don’t give your heart to Cap Garland. Young Mariah Patterson only managed to obey one. Orphaned and having devoted her youth to scrapping out a life with her brother Charles, Mariah finds herself with no interesting suitors or means of support. Throwing caution to the wind, she seizes an opportunity to lay her feelings at Cap’s feet, even though she knows Cap sees the world through the torch he carries for Laura Ingalls. Mariah is certain her love for Cap will be strong enough to break both bonds, and she’s willing to risk everything to prove it.
De Smet, South Dakota—1974
Trixie Gowan is the fourth generation of living Gowan women residing in the sprawling farmhouse on the outskirts of De Smet. Well, former resident. She’s recently moved to Minneapolis, where she writes ads for a neighborhood paper edited by Ron Tumble. She might live and work in the city, but her co-workers still call her Prairie Girl. Thus the inspiration for her comic strip—“Lost Laura”—in which a bespectacled girl in a calico dress tries to make her way in the city. The name is a quiet rebellion having grown up in a household where she’d been forbidden to mention the name, Laura Ingalls. But when her great-grandmother Mariah’s declining health brings Trixie home for a visit, two things might just keep her there: the bedside manner of Dr. Campbell Carter and the family secret that seems to be spilling from GG’s lips one conversation at a time.
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About the Author
Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.
More from Allison
I can credit Laura Ingalls Wilder for just about every aspect of my identity. I’m a reader because I read her books over and over and over again, checking them out from my little elementary school library. I can still see them—last bookcase, bottom shelf. During the summer, I checked them out from the Bookmobile, and one magical Christmas, I received my own set. The well-worn, yellow paperbacks have a place of honor in my office: top shelf, center stage. It was amazing to my eight-year-old self that I could pick up Little House in the Big Woods, skip the dull parts, and jump straight to These Happy Golden Years in a single afternoon.
Looking at Laura’s writing now (as I often do), I realize I spent my childhood absorbing the art of telling a story. Her books masterfully string meaningful vignettes within an over-arching conflict. She creates stories-within-a-story-within-a-story whenever Pa launches into a tall tale, and minor characters come to life no matter how brief their appearance. (Aunt Docia, anyone?)
When I first came up with the concept of writing a story set in the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I knew I couldn’t bring Laura herself in as a character. There’s a sacredness to her story, and I wouldn’t dream of inserting myself into the cannon of her pages. But—I thought—surely she had peers who grew up alongside her, classmates who also hated Miss Wilder, young men who might have set their own cap for her, townsfolk who remembered the vibrant young woman with the button-brown eyes and dark curls. And then I pondered further: maybe there was another side to Laura—a side that she kept from the romanticized ideal skipping through the pages of her books. My first thought was to create a fictional De Smet town girl, but then…
In researching and reading Pioneer Girl, The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I came across a bit of information that brought the story to life for me. In These Happy Golden Years, Laura teaches her first class: five students, two families. And while the “Brewster” children are documented in other sources, the Harrison children are not. There are no census records, land deeds, or any official documents to support the identity of Charles and Martha as they are depicted in the novel. And so, it clicked. If Laura could fictionalize these people, well, then, so could I. Thus Martha Harrison was lifted from those pages, renamed Mariah, and given a new life and a new story in mine.
Writing Laura’s Shadow allowed me to indulge in a few favorite directions. First, I’m fascinated with the idea of extreme longevity (showcased in my novel All for a Song), and creating a character whose lifespan stretches from homesteading to disco was delightful. My Mariah chafes at the romanticized depiction of pioneer life, telling us in her old age that it was really more of a daily struggle for survival. I also enjoyed exploring the family dynamic of four generations of women and how each generation faced the same battles and fought them so, so differently. Finally—and this is what truly speaks to my fourth-grade self…
You know that Elton John song, “Your Song” with the lyrics, “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words…” Well, I got to put down in words my lifelong crush on Cap Garland. Sure, Almonzo is great and everything, but I always thought Cap was more exciting. More fun. More…more. Bringing him to life in this book set my old heart racing. My research for this novel took me to De Smet, and to his gravesite, where I spoke this story to his stone. I like to think he’d approve, and I hope all of the Laura fans will join me in this tale and let their imaginations run wild.
Even if I had not already committed myself to reading each of the Doors to the Past books (not out of obligation, but simply because it is another superb series by Barbour), I would not have been able to pass this one up. You see, the Laura in Laura’s Shadow refers to that Laura, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and like so many others, I too was enamored with the world of Little House on the Prairie as a child; I just never outgrew it. So when I realized that this ninth installment, penned by Allison Pittman, had a connection to that legacy, I was thrilled. Having read countless renditions of the pioneer story and of the Ingalls family in particular over the years, I went into this novel with a somewhat jaded curiosity, not expecting anything truly distinctive but ready to just enjoy a good story. Thus I was pleasantly surprised by how different this narrative proved to be.
Despite the link with Laura Ingalls, she is not the focal point. Rather, Laura’s Shadow is a character unto itself, always lurking in the background and serving as a reminder of the shadowed secrets of the past. Two timelines and four generations converge near De Smet, South Dakota in 1974 when Trixie Gowan gradually learns more about her 104-year-old great-grandmother Mariah’s life as a young woman in 1891. This provides a unique perspective on how an outsider may have seen Laura Ingalls, and it offers a speculative glimpse into Cap Garland, who had a crush on Laura and for whom Mariah developed feelings. Generational trauma and keen humor demonstrate that the line of unconventional Gowan women are as inspirational as they are tragic. As Trixie’s grandmother says, “Was there sin? Yes, but sin can be forgiven. Shame you drag around with you.” Coming to terms with the past and making peace with it are necessary regardless of the circumstances, and it is never too late to do so.
A few aspects of Laura’s Shadow that I most enjoyed include a witty romance that I won’t spoil by detailing and the Lost Laura cartoon, which epitomizes the struggles of both Mariah and Trixie, in my opinion. I found this latter to be such an interesting addition to the story, as well as a reminder of perseverance. The one thing that I wish had been more prominent is the Christian element, especially given the subject matter, which highlights the need for and beauty of redemption.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥
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Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions , August 31
Texas Book-aholic, August 31
Genesis 5020, September 1
Inklings and notions, September 1
The Avid Reader, September 2
For Him and My Family, September 2
deb’s Book Review, September 3
Simple Harvest Reads, September 3 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 4
Blogging With Carol, September 4
Betti Mace, September 5
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 5
Blossoms and Blessings, September 6
Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 6
lakesidelivingsite, September 7
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, September 7
Connie’s History Classroom, September 8
Mary Hake, September 8
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 9
Through the Fire Blogs, September 9
Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 10
Bigreadersite, September 11
Pause for Tales, September 11
For the Love of Literature, September 12
Labor Not in Vain, September 12
Remembrancy, September 13
To Everything There Is A Season, September 13
To celebrate her tour, Allison is gicing away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon E-gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.