Falling Forward

A Woman's Journey West

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
326 Pages
Reviewed on 12/28/2020
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Author Biography

Hi, I’m Pat Jurgens, writer and retired librarian. Wanderlust led me south from the New England area where I grew up to graduate from Duke University, east to India for study abroad, and west to University of Denver for an MLS. In recent years, a passion for travel and an interest in other cultures has taken me to Europe and Asia, Central and South America, Australia and New Zealand. Colorado, where my much-loved children were raised, has been my home for nearly six decades.
Since moving to a cabin in the mountains of Evergreen, Colorado in 2000, I’ve published numerous articles in local and regional magazines. Also dabbling in memoir and poetry, I’ve made contributions to several anthologies and won awards from the Denver Women’s Press Club, Jefferson County Historical Commission, and the Poetry Society of Colorado.
Falling Forward, a Woman’s Journey West is my first novel. The inspiration to write this story came from my grandmother, whose young life in the late 1890s is threaded through the initial chapters. In the process of writing the book I visited the San Joaquin Valley of California, Mennonite country of NE Ohio, and neighboring Golden, Colorado, to dig up historical details. It was a journey and a great adventure. I hope you enjoy stepping back one hundred years into this story of Louisa, a young woman who follows her dreams to the American West.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

I so admire authors who can take a piece of history and create a wonderful 'herstory' around it. That’s what Pat Benedict Jurgens has done with Falling Forward: A Woman's Journey West, her story of Louisa, a courageous and sometimes feisty member of a Mennonite community back in 1897. While Louisa loves and respects her austere, hard-working father, a community elder, after her mother dies Louisa is forced into looking after her siblings and the household needs. She does so unbegrudgingly, but after marrying a non-Mennonite and becoming increasingly unhappy with the restrictions of her community, she and her beloved husband leave to make their future elsewhere. The move proves fatal in more ways than one and Louisa finds herself raising her two children alone. But if nothing else, Louisa is resourceful. She is also a free thinker and believes what men can do…like run a business… she can do. She opens a successful bakery and joins other forward-thinking women looking to gain equality. But the men are there at every turn, doing their best to oppose such women and make sure they know their place.

There is so much more to the plot than what I’ve outlined here. The rest is for you to discover and enjoy. I was enlightened about the hardships families, and especially women, faced at the turn of the century and I particularly enjoyed learning about the Mennonite community. Pat Benedict Jurgens’ characterization skills are excellent: readers feel at one with Louisa and those around her. The dialogue flows easily, setting descriptions are vivid, and the pace is beautifully controlled. And if you think you can predict the ending, think again. It took me by surprise! Falling Forward is a superb historical fiction novel that will be especially appealing to female readers. If you're looking for something to help you escape today's harsh realities, try Falling Forward with Louisa to a better future.

Bernadette Diane Anderson

Falling Forward: A Woman's Journey West by author Pat Benedict Jurgens tells the story of a 17-year-old girl pushed into dealing with situations brought about by those around her. Facing life after the death of her mother, she is left to care for her siblings and her father who is a respected elder in their religious community, which itself begins her tragic course of life. The young Louisa marries and follows her husband’s dream of a better future in another part of America in the late 1890s, away from her roots. But even on the journey, their problems begin and things soon start to get worse. Louisa and husband Thomas, along with their beloved children Daniel and Mattie, begin their new adventure into the future, living in a tent with dreams of much better times ahead. However, little by little the dream once chased ebbs away after troubles and hardships get underway. Follow Louisa as she fights her way through pain, suffering, drama, tragedy, and lost love, making decisions that will define her future forever.

In Falling Forward, Pat Benedict Jurgens shows how a person’s life can fall forward into happiness or tragedy very easily and defines how life was lived in a tight-knit community at the turn of the 1800s. The author brings history to life in this well written, easy-paced drama. You get a good idea of the strength and determination needed to survive the harshness of those times with its prejudices and closed-minded attitudes that caused so much pain and suffering. The characters are well defined, helping you to either love or loathe them, and you get the feeling of wanting revenge and justice to be meted out to those who make others' lives difficult and harsh for the innocent ones around them. Describing people, places, and situations with a great deal of depth and clarity ensures that you will enjoy and truly understand this amazing story, making you feel a part of it. With a twist in the tale, you are left wanting more!

P. Jurgens

Viga Boland's review brings out the reader's close connection with the main character, Louisa, as she negotiates her life amid the social issues of early 20th century America. There is hardship and loss, but also a woman's inspiring strength, which lies at the heart of the story. And there is the adventure and challenge of a new life in the West that carries the reader forward.

P. Jurgens

Bernadette Diane Anderson's review brings out Louisa's dreams and how her life unfolds as she "falls forward" into happiness and also tragedy. She emphasizes the historical aspect that brings the story to life, especially life in the Mennonite community. She found depth and clarity in the characterizations, places, and events, that made her feel a part of the story.