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Reviewed by Geoff Baggett for Readers' Favorite
Author Ashley E. Sweeney’s Eliza Waite tells the emotional story of a young, late 19th century woman whose life was littered with years of abuse, injustice, sickness, loneliness, and heartbreak. Her journey begins in her childhood Missouri where she is betrayed by a man she trusted and then shunned and rejected by her own family. Forced to marry a man she did not love, she migrated to the Pacific Northwest and sought to make a life with her young, emotionally distant preacher-man husband and her illegitimate son. After even more personal loss and bitter emotional betrayal, Eliza made the bold and brash decision to follow the gold rush to Alaska in search of healing, fortune, and independence. But was she strong enough and tough enough to endure the harsh weather and even harsher men of the Alaskan frontier?
Eliza Waite captured my heart. It took a couple of chapters, but she eventually grabbed hold of me. Maybe I was a little slow to connect with her because I am a man. But when I made that connection it was powerful. Ashley Sweeney uses several creative mechanisms to allow the reader to truly “get inside the mind” of the primary character. The reader gets to see every single thought and reaction to the people around her the moment those thoughts enter her mind. The transparency of Eliza’s lack of self-confidence and her propensity toward self-doubt and derision almost seem to wind up tightly like a spring as the story builds. Finally, when she releases from her doldrums into a place of assertiveness and self-confidence, her character becomes fully developed. After rooting for her and feeling broken for her throughout most of the book, it is both a release and a relief to see her find her true place in this world at the end of the story.
Eliza Waite is carefully crafted, beautifully edited, and masterfully formatted. And all of the old-school baking recipes are an unexpected plus. I highly recommend this story, especially for women. It truly helps give a context for the suffering and struggles of women throughout our American history. Five stars.