Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Historical Fiction Series about the Railroad

Historical fiction series: Ribbons of Steel by Judith Pella and Tracie Peterson

Distant Dreams – 1997 Bethany House

A Hope Beyond—1997 Bethany House

A Promise for Tomorrow – 1998 Bethany House

This 3-book series about the beginnings of the railroad in America is also a story about a family. The story begins in 1835 with the first trip for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a small railroad company owned by the Adams family which only ran between those two towns. As the book progresses, I learned that many small railroads began in that way, all individually owned and operated by a group of independently wealthy men.

The family of Margaret and Joseph Adams with their children named for the states: Virginia, Carolina, Pennsylvania (Penny), Georgia, Maryland, Maine and York, watched the enormous machine as it chugged toward its maiden voyage. Fifteen-year-old Carolina was overcome with curiosity about the railroad and wanted to know all about it, even though at that time in history, women were thought to be too “delicate” to understand such things. The basis of the book is how Joseph Adams helps his daughter, Carolina, learn about the railroad and even be involved in its evolution through the years. Of course, his special attention to one daughter causes friction with one of the others, Virginia, and this family rift carries on throughout the three-book series over a number of years. Virginia tries to squelch Carolina at every turn, no matter what the occasion.

The Adams family ran a plantation with slaves, and slavery was a major issue throughout the three books. The reader is introduced to the slaves and they are treated as part of the family, until the third book, when a son-in-law starts treating them cruelly.

Sickness and death and the primitive treatment by doctors is another theme. The reader learns that Margaret gave birth to two children, Hampshire and Tennessee, who died very young with a fever. This causes Margaret to have a deep depression which turns up occasionally to hinder her raising of the other children.

The main conflict throughout all three books is between Carolina and Virginia, and Carolina’s dreams to be a part of the railroad, even though she is a female. All in all, the books progress from 1835 to 1853 and many social issues of those years are depicted. I read the first book as a free download on my Kindle, then found the other two in our local library. The railroad grows from a small operation with a single owner to the beginnings of the transcontinental railroad. I found these books to be interesting, and compelling and I read all three of them in a period of about a week. Judith Pella and Tracie Peterson’s combined efforts brought this historical to life with a great storyline.

A sweet and consuming love story also dominates the three-book series. Though Carolina finds her love early, time and events prevent her from realizing her dream, but eventually she finds true love.
These books held my interest throughout, and I could not wait to go from one to the other. Of course, when they were over, I wondered what happened next in this family saga.

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