In her extraordinary novels Into the Wilderness and Dawn on a Distant Shore, award-winning writer Sara Donati deftly captured the vast, untamed wilderness of late-eighteenth-century New York and the trials and triumphs of the Bonner family. Now Donati takes on a new and often overlooked chapter in our nation's past--and in the life of the spirited Bonners--as their oldest daughter, the brave and beautiful Hannah, comes of age with a challenge that will change her forever. Masterfully told, this passionate story is a moving tribute to a resilient, adventurous family and a people poised at the brink of a new century.
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April 29, 2003
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Excerpt from Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati
In the spring of Elizabeth Middleton Bonner's thirty-eighth year, when she believed herself to be settled, secure, and well beyond adventure, Selah Voyager came to Paradise.
It was the screaming of the osprey that brought the women face to face, just past dawn on a Sunday morning. Elizabeth and her stepdaughter Hannah were skirting the marsh at the far end of Half-Moon Lake when the birds started up, making so much noise chasing each other in great diving swoops that the two of them stopped right there to watch. Weary as she was, Elizabeth was glad of the excuse to rest.
On the edge of New York's endless forests the winter gave way reluctantly to warm weather, but when the osprey came back to the lake it was a certainty that the last of the ice would soon be gone. And there were other signs as well, all around them: a red-winged blackbird perched on a cattail; wood frogs hidden among the rushes, their queer duck-clack call echoing over the water; reeds flushed with new green. Elizabeth was looking over the lake and taking comfort in what the day had to offer when Hannah caught sight of a clutch of small white flowers in first blossom. Bloodroot gave up a deep scarlet dye, and it was highly prized.
Elizabeth said, "Can't it wait " And knew it could not; Hannah simply could not walk away from such a useful growing thing. That she had gone a night without rest was immaterial: she could have run up the mountain and trotted back down again without stopping, or needing to.
With an apologetic look, Hannah pulled a small spade from her basket and knelt down to lift the plant. And froze, as still and attentive as a deer who comes upon a hunter in an unexpected place.
Almost directly before her was a pair of shoes, sitting atop a low oak stump in the early morning sun, as if put there to dry after a walk through the bush. Roughly cobbled and worn down to almost nothing, with scratched blue buckles. Elizabeth had never seen such shoes on anybody in Paradise.