I’m fussy about what I read. So many books, so little time. The Memoir and Biography genre doesn’t typically interest me. Self-aggrandizing celebrities and politicians with their pictures splashed on a book cover written by someone else – hard pass. Then I started doing research for my novel about the Santa Fe Trail. My notion of memoirs changed a bit. The most impactful book I’ve read to date is a memoir not written by a sports star, but rather written by a woman living her life in the Southwest during the 1800s.
Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail is an authentic account of a courageous woman who traveled the Santa Fe Trail (more than once) and lived in old Santa Fe. She lived in a few forts with her soldier husband as well. Then helped him build a town in a rugged part of Colorado.
Her recollections make this memoir real for the reader. We share her shock and fear when the wagon train comes across gruesome deaths and other violence against innocents. These accounts, for me anyway, were more troubling when I stopped to consider this isn’t a work of fiction. The murders – witnessed by Marian as both child and woman – really happened. I found myself grieving with her when she experiences tragedy as a young wife. Marian was an extraordinary woman who took on a sometimes-brutal land. She was a true pioneer.
I believe part of the allure of this book for me is the setting. I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains most of my life. Many times, I’ve traveled across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada (in a car) passing through the places she mentions in her book. How about you? Do you know who lived in your hometown before it was a town? Seek out the stories that reveal more than one dull paragraph in a history book. You might be amazed by what you find.
Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.