Clark and Marty Davis's young daughter, Missie, heads west on a wagon train with her new husband, Willie LaHaye. Along the way, they face dangers, hardship, and sheer boredom. Their joy at the prospect of becoming new parents is overshadowed by the risks that Missie might face while giving birth on the frontier with no doctor or midwife around for miles. After months on the trail, they arrive in the town closest to their homestead, but still nearly a week's ride away by wagon. Willie insists that Missie stay in town until the baby is born, while he goes ahead to start building their new home. The forced separation is difficult for this young couple who are so deeply in love, but soon their child arrives and Missie is able to join Willie. When she finally gets to their home, Missie is rather underwhelmed by the ranch that Willie has spoken so passionately about, but before long, she gets used to it and settles into a routine. Still, they suffer more hardships as a large part of their herd of cattle is rustled away from them. Missie must get by in the middle of nowhere with no female company for months, as well as weather through a long, harsh winter. But through it all, Missie and Willie's love for one another and their love and faith in God sustains them.
Love's Long Journey was another wonderful story in the Love Comes Softly series that is so reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books. The author really brought to life the stark reality of the hardships on a wagon train and how sometimes people died along the way. There was also the sheer boredom and monotony of doing the same things and eating the same things day after day. Even once Missie and Willie get settled in a temporary home on the frontier, dangers and boredom still factor in, especially during the winter months. In between the wagon trip and getting settled, Missie and Willie experienced a long, difficult separation as she stayed in the closest town, which was several days ride from their ranch, awaiting the birth of their baby, while Willie went on to get things set up for them. And of course, there was the homesickness of being separated from their families who were so far away with very little means of communication. It all makes me really thankful to live in modern times, and also thankful for those courageous souls throughout history who braved the hardships of the frontier to expand our nation.
Much the same as with her mother, Marty's book, this one is told entirely from Missie's POV. She was a brave young woman who obviously loved Willie a lot to want to help him pursue his dream of cattle ranching. Although the journey itself and living in such an isolated area was often difficult and brought disappointments, Missie rarely complained. She just set her mind to doing what needed to be done and eventually she adjusted quite well. Her attitude was admirable, but that's not to say that I always agreed with her decisions to keep certain things from her husband. I understood that she was trying to avoid adding stress on Willie by not telling him at first about being pregnant or about her severe homesickness, but as someone who shares nearly everything with my husband, I felt like she should have trusted that he could handle it. Once she finally fesses up, Missie comes to that same conclusion herself, but later in the story she still keeps a couple of things from him, including an incident where one of the ranch hands menaces her. I really felt like she should have told Willie about that and allowed him to share her burdens a little more. Even though I sometimes didn't agree with Missie, overall, she was still a very relatable heroine with all of her emotional ups and downs. Missie is a keen observer of people and seems to have an intuitive sense about how they might be feeling or what they might need, and was always ready to lend a hand, which is something that I can really identify with.
I do kind of miss having the male perspective in these books, but the reader can get a pretty good feel for Willie through Missie's eyes. He is a kindhearted man toward others, a good husband to Missie, and a loving father to Nathan. He is a hard worker, a great provider for Missie and his child, and very protective of them both, always doing what was in their best interests even if it was difficult. Willie is a bit of a dreamer with his aspirations of starting a cattle ranch, but still pretty practical, and doesn't really take chances. I think what I liked most about him is the way he comforts Missie in times of sorrow and truly wants to share her burdens, and also his quiet faith and optimism.
There are many things to love about this book. The young love that Willie and Missie share and the way they can hardly stand to be apart from one another is so sweet and tender. The faith message is not at all preachy, but instead is a gentle one of relying on God to sustain you through difficult times. There is a full compliment of secondary characters, other pioneers, ranch hands, townspeople in Tettsford Junction, and more, who all give the story the flavor of the Old West and the sense of oneness as a community. Everything just came together to make Love's Long Journey a very enjoyable read, or perhaps I should say re-read, since I'm pretty sure I first read it years ago as a teenager. In any case, it was every bit as good today as it was back then, and I'm really looking forward to continuing the series. I can tell that there is more story for Missie and Willie, and I'm eager to find out what happens next for them.
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