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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.