In her picturesque historical novel, “The Hunger Year”, author Lee Conrad Kemsley depicts life and its hardships during an especially arduous time in American history.
We often think of history in the terms of war and battles, but Kemsley’s portrayal is that of the human struggle to survive, not just the remnants of war and personal tragedy, but the unpredictable behavior of Mother Nature and what havoc she can wreak on the innocents that simply stand in her way.
Set in the early 1800’s, following the War of 1812, 17 year-old Magen Creed begins a journey home that can only bring wisdom and maturity through the survival of insurmountable odds. After the death of her step-sister Carrie, Magen’s step- mother, Sara, falls into despair over the loss of her own daughter. The only way to avoid starvation from the failing crops on their small New York farm is to relocate. With a map left to her by her absent father, Magen realizes that it leads to his home in Vermont.
With her dazed and grieving step-mother and a mule drawn wagon, Magen fearlessly sets out on a journey to Vermont. Alone and vulnerable, her strength is put to the test as the traveling turns deadly when her wagon becomes wedged on a dirt road and Sara is fatally injured. Now totally alone, Magen pushes forward and nearing her destination, meets Gabriel, a young man who knows of the Creed family farm. The author makes it is easy to envision Vermont in the 1800’s and Magen’s long journey, alone and unprotected on unpaved roads.
Magen’s new friend Gabriel is a young man also on a personal journey. A carpenter by trade, he is smitten by her courage and looks, and offers to take Magen to the Creed farm, now owned and run by her Aunt Eliza. Somewhat afraid of what her reception might bring, she forges on and is quickly received into the embrace of her aunt. Finding Creed farm, Magan feels as if somehow divine intervention has finally brought her to a place she can truly call home.
The story is somewhat predictable, as Magen and Gabriel grow close, and she becomes pregnant with his child. With Gabriel temporarily absent, Creed Farm suffers some personal loss and one theme of “The Hunger Year” becomes clearly apparent as Mother Nature unleashes a series of events that turn the lives of New Englanders upside down.
A sweet and informative piece of historical fiction, “The Hunger Year” takes the reader back in time with an intimate glimpse of New England farm life and humanity at the mercy of world events, personal tragedy and the furious wrath of Mother Nature.
Reviewed by Peggy La Vake for IndieReader