Prospects of a Woman

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
352 Pages
Reviewed on 09/04/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

Prospects of a Woman: A Novel by Wendy Voorsanger is the story of Elizabeth as she discovers the meaning of independence and what it means to be truly free. Elizabeth and her husband Nate travel from Massachusetts to California to find her father who has suddenly become rich. However, when they get there, her father refuses to accept them and leaves them alone. Hungry and poor, she and Nate have to work harder than they ever did to find sustenance and even live. However, when their marriage starts to fall apart, Elizabeth learns that there is more to being a woman than just a wife. She realizes she has rights and a future. She can become whoever she wants to be, become the master of her destiny and she does not need a man by her side to be happy.

Set in the time of the California gold rush, Elizabeth is a woman who goes through some tough times but makes it out alive with sheer determination and grit. Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger is a complex and sometimes dark novel that shares the harsh realities of a time when the characters are just learning about themselves and their full potential. There is both beauty and innocence in the way Elizabeth blooms right in front of the reader’s eyes. She learns how she can be the hero of her own story by earning her money and by not following a pipe dream that may or may not be real. This novel is fascinating in its complexity; it is empowering and the author makes sure the reader gets a rush of excitement as they turn pages. This one deserves the prime spot on your bookshelf!

Heather Osborne

Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger is the epic tale of a woman in early California during the Gold Rush. After traveling from Lowell, Massachusetts with her new husband, the last thing Elizabeth Parker expects is to find that her long-departed father has betrayed their entire family. He leaves his claim to Elizabeth and her husband, Nate, and the pair begins the struggle to turn dirt into gold. However, other complications arise, namely in Nate and his ability to be a good husband to Elizabeth. With this in mind, she strikes out on her own and begins to build a life many women at the time would only dream of. But in California, anything is possible.

As a California native, books that chronicle the early history of my home state are always a draw, especially about pioneering women of the time. Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger ticks all those boxes and more. In a beautifully written narrative interspersed with themes of self-doubt and perseverance, Voorsanger takes the reader on an inspiring journey alongside Elizabeth Parker. With each trial, I keenly felt Elizabeth’s emotions and struggles, and with each success, I mentally cheered. She is the epitome of a true breaker of social norms. There were times when I wished she didn’t have as much restraint, but that made for a better story. I was firmly in her corner the entire time, wondering if I would have the same strength to overcome what she did. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of early American historical fiction as it is definitely worth the read.

K.C. Finn

Prospects of a Woman is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, western and interpersonal drama sub-genres, and was penned by author Wendy Voorsanger. Written for adult reading audiences, the work does contain some sexual situations and scenes of graphic violence pertinent to the historical time period in which it is set. We find ourselves smack bang in the middle of the California Gold Rush in the mid-nineteenth century, where newly married couple Elisabeth and Nate arrive to seek out life together. But as secrets about Nate come to the fore, Elisabeth learns that she must forge her own path in life if she is to find true happiness in her heart, mind, and soul.

Author Wendy Voorsanger has crafted a western drama with spirit and heart, and one which captivates from the opening lines through to its emotive conclusion. Heavily focused on the characters and their emotional journey, we find ourselves following an interesting and educational turn of events as California shifts and changes under the weight of the Gold Rush and its many promises. I really enjoyed Nate’s story, which is a heartfelt self-discovery to make in such harsh times. Elisabeth’s reaction to it and consequent changes were really well developed and emotionally resonant. I also felt that there were some really beautifully penned dialogue scenes and correspondence which gave an authentic voice and feel to the time period. Overall, I would certainly recommend Prospects of a Woman to fans of character-led drama and immersive historical fiction.

Jamie Michele

Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger is a historical fiction novel that follows its protagonist Elisabeth Parker to the Western frontier during the California Gold Rush. Her arrival from Concord, Massachusetts to the outskirts of the original California settlement in Culoma Town is met with resistance from her father, who immediately relinquishes his claim to Elisabeth and her husband Nate, absconding with a young girl who he's taken as a quasi-wife after abandoning the family he left back home. Life on the American River is gritty and tough, leaving Elisabeth physically spent and emotionally bankrupt. Her misfortunes are amplified by the truth she learned about her husband, a harsher truth about another whom she saw as an escape, and the destruction of a life she'd begun to build on her own. Still, she makes her way to San Francisco and, with all odds against her, continues to fight for a future she can be proud of.

Wendy Voorsanger has written a completely engrossing story in Prospects of a Woman, creating a character that is unrestrained and profoundly honest in Elisabeth Parker. There is honesty in how Elisabeth is depicted, lending to her portrayal of an authentic woman even when her less tolerant thoughts rear their heads. The period details are exceptional, coming to life as we get to know Elisabeth and Nate, and later as the former tries to reconcile who she is with who she wants to become. I found Elisabeth's friendship with the renowned author Louisa May Alcott to be an interesting addition to the novel, providing the backbone to a narrative of progress in a time when Elisabeth and Louisa May would be wholly at odds with the constraints of 19th century America. I also enjoyed that Elisabeth didn't walk onto her father's claim as a woman of means that loses everything. Instead, she is a woman who thinks she has nothing left to lose and is so unbelievably wrong about that. This is a fantastic book, one which I enjoyed all the more as a woman who was born and raised in San Francisco myself. Highly recommended.

Gobi Jane

Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger is a historical western novel that strongly depicts a changing time in California. It follows Elizabeth Parker, a determined woman who leaves Massachusetts in 1849 and comes to California with her husband to create a life for their family. With her father abandoning them, with the promise of gold dashed away, and Nate struggling with his own issues, life becomes something quite different from what she’d imagined. Follow her story as she fights to create a space for herself in a world dominated by men; a world that can also be very harsh.

This is a story of grit, hard work, love, and sacrifice in America where a woman depended on her father and then her husband, and then set out to forge her path. The story makes readers see the unseen and plants new ideas and a new spirit in them. The author does a wonderful job of exploring relationships. The relationship between Elizabeth and Nate, her husband, is genuine, with feelings that come naturally across in the writing. The friendship with Louisa May, depicted through the epistolary style, adds depth to the story and deepens both character and plot. I loved Wendy Voorsanger’s character building, insightful writing, and how well the author crafts motivation in the characters. I have always loved stories featuring strong and relatable female characters and this author has given me yet another beautiful treat. Prospects of a Woman: A Novel is a page-turner, a story that deftly explores the resilient spirit of one strong character. I adored the writing and many other elements in this novel, including the characters, the strong plot points, and the wonderful setting.