Sunday, February 1, 2004

Back Roads to Bliss: The Canadian Frontier

Author Ruth Glover continues her "Saskatchewan Saga" series about Bliss, a small community in Saskatchewan, Canada (near Prince Albert), in the late 19th century, with the next installment -- Back Roads to Bliss.
It is the spring of 1898, when we meet the spirited young Allison Middleton, a spoiled wealthy British girl. She attempts to elope, is caught, and banished to Canada as a disobedient child who brought shame to her family.

The story immediately sweeps the reader into Allison’s adventures and intrigues, as we see her first scheming to elope with a "forbidden" young man, then rebellious and adventurous as she contemplates a new life in an unknown, exciting world. We sympathize with Allison as her world starts falling apart and she finds herself abandoned in a strange land. Yet throughout the story is the power and testimony of a loving God and His abundant provision and faithfulness.

The historical backdrop is rich with details, especially Gretna Green weddings (just over the border from England, in Scotland) and the "Remittance men." The story also shares the flavor of simple family and small town life, in a place named for that special state of soul and mind … "Bliss." The pioneer way of life is evident, too: railroad towns and the daily work and hardships of clearing out the "bush" country. At a time when the United States was mostly settled, much of Canadian land was still available for the taking – along with the hard work and harsh winter climate.

Back Roads to Bliss conveys the spirit of these true pioneers of the Canadian northwest, with a hometown familiarity of beloved characters who no doubt were featured in previous books in the "Bliss" series. We meet Molly Morrison and Parker Jones -- yet they are soon out of the picture, and the town-folk of Bliss adjust to life without their pastor. Back Roads to Bliss has its share of light moments, even humor, as shown through the idiosyncrasies of ordinary people.

The story reads as a stand-alone novel, introducing new and old characters in a flowing narrative and interesting story. Yet the ending begs for a sequel – what happens next for Allison, and the other characters of Bliss, Canada? Back Roads to Bliss is an excellent addition to historical fiction about the pioneering days of the Canadian West.