by Conrad Richter
1940 / 167 pages
rating – 8
I’ve rarely, if ever, read a book of historical fiction built around the era just after the American Revolution. This book, the first in a trilogy called The Awakening Land, starts out in or just before 1795 and ends several years later. The setting is the Northwest Territory of Ohio, immediately west and south of Pennsylvania.
Worth and Jary Luckett together with their 4 children set up a primitive cabin in the virgin forest which is home to an abundance of wildlife and the Delaware Indians. Life is very hard, very fragile and full of danger. It’s an old country and the trees make it dark. The narration and dialogue is written in a “back country” dialect and there are some song lyrics added with good effect. Ward is basically a hunter who tends to have an itchy foot so the family travels when the game runs out – or he goes alone.
I believe The Trees is historically accurate in terms of what settlers in this part of the country lived, ate and talked as well as the way neighbors moved in. Ward talks about having marched this way with General Wayne’s army (1794 – Battle of Fallen Timbers). According to Richter in the Introduction, the dialect was shaped by old manuscripts and letters true. It is a beautifully written book.