Rape victim Lydia Bryant endured a stillbirth and nearly died until she is welcomed into a family on the Oregon Trail and she is needed to nurse a motherless newborn. Rape victim Lydia Bryant endured a stillbirth and nearly died until she is welcomed into a family on the Oregon Trail and she is needed to nurse a motherless newborn. Lydia Bryant is sure that she is dying and would just like it to happen soon, because it seems to be exceptionally painful. She has lived in fear for years and suffered silently through sexual assault at the hands of her step-brother.
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Her reward for surviving that abuse was to give birth on the side of the road with no help. Her baby dies and she nearly does, until Ma Langston and her family are willing to nurse her back to health. They provide her space in their wagon on the long trip to the west. She also believes that the last time she saw her evil step-brother, she defended herself against his advances and accidentally killed him, Lydia shares little of her past, but other members of the party are aware that she had no husband and had a baby.
As she becomes healthier, a crisis with another family in the group occurs. Victoria, a young, healthy wife died in childbirth, and without a way to feed the baby, he will soon join his mother. Ross Coleman was the baby's father and he has secrets of his own that is running from, including his experiences the Jesse James gang, that he wants to conceal. His prior life has led to choosing a new name and a new home, in the west. Ross married his first wife against the wishes of her family and he would never have brought them on the difficult trip, if he knew that his delicate and pampered wife was expecting.
Therefore, he blames himself for her death and because of his own past, he is quick to judge Lydia as being of low morals. He is forced to accept her assistance, but he is overbearing and rude about doing so. Despite his efforts and her fears, an undeniable spark between the two appears. In addition, it quickly becomes apparent that she only injured her step-brother and he tracks her down.
It is important to understand that Lydia had little access to adequate nutrition and was now the sole source of nutrition for a healthy, growing baby. As a result, she developed problems with her milk supply, and Ma Langston provided cow milk without alerting Ross about the concern. When he finds out, he is furious and threatens to throw her out. They have a few kind moments, but many of their discussions are volatile.
Ma Langston has her own family to worry about, including teenage boys with interest in a promiscuous girl named Priscilla, one of whom is killed by the evil step-brother. The situation changes when they are caught in a compromising position and because of the morals of the time period, need to quickly marry. Their communication increases and he also finds evidence that his first wife had not trusted him and smuggled valuables on the wagon without telling him of those resources. Lydia's step-brother appears and blackmails her about their past, even after they arrive at their new home.
Forced to spend time together, many of their ideas about one another are proven to be wrong and hate turns to love. As they form a home, her step-brother make his presence known and Ross kills him. The two ultimately triumph.
Best part of story, including ending:
I hated that Ross's first wife was considered to be a paragon of virtue to many people, while she lied to her family, her husband and willingly risked her life and the baby's life by joining the wagon train when she did. There are references in the book as to her announcement of her pregnancy coming soon after it was too late to turn back and that was very representative of her character.
Best scene in story:
Lydia did not want to be a mother and did not consent to the conception, so she was relieved in some ways that her baby died. However, when she became a wet nurse for the baby, she experienced feelings for him that she was never able to experience for her own child. I believe that step to be valuable, for both her character development and they way she perceived her own actions.
Opinion about the main character:
I found Ross Coleman to be hypocritical and selfish through much of the book. He consistently criticized Lydia, despite the fact that he knew nothing about her and subjected her to verbal abuse daily, while she was there to keep his son alive. Even if his ideas about her were accurate, he had done terrible things in his own past and therefore, his behavior was particularly offensive.