When we think of the Wild West, we often think of the men—men who drove the stage coaches, men who hunted the buffalo, men who prospected for gold, men who fought the Native Americans, men who pushed the railroads from one end of the country to another. Yet there were women in the American West too, women who were surely stronger than the men for being there despite the hardships and loneliness.
Carrie Adell Strahorn was one of these women. Along with her husband, writer and railroad promoter Robert Strahorn, she traveled the West at the turn of the century. She was one of the first white women to venture into many of America’s iconic places, including Yellowstone National Park. In Everything She Didn’t Say, Jane Kirkpatrick imagines what this cheerful, intrepid woman might have said in her memoir, if she’d been truly honest about everything…
I received a copy of Everything She Didn’t Say for review courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications; all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Carrie Dell Strahorn’s Story
Everything She Didn’t Say opens in 1877 with Carrie and Robert’s wedding day. Carrie writes in hindsight, glossing over some details and sharing her thoughts about others. She talks about leaving “obey” out of their wedding vows and calling Robert her “Pard,” for they are to be partners for life. Yet it doesn’t take Carrie long to find out that her marriage with Robert will be full of surprises… and may not always feel like a partnership.
Life if anything must be an adventure, one we make ourselves from whatever comes our way. ~ Carrie Adell Strahorn
In 1877, railroads are ready to stretch across America. Robert’s job is to visit the towns and places where the railroad may travel and write about them, encouraging settlers to come west. So for the first years of their marriage, Carrie and Robert travel hither and yon across America. Carrie faces a blizzard on the train, a runaway stage coach, and Indians on the war parth. She is often the only woman traveling, yet she refuses to be left behind while Robert collects data for his books.
More about Everything She Didn’t Say
Kirkpatrick begins each chapter with a handwritten section, as if it came from Carrie’s journal. Each chapter closes with an actual quote from Carrie’s book, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. In between, the events of her life unfold… the constant moves, her struggle with childlessness and finding a sense of purpose, her attempts to stay in the happy track, her musings on life, travel, and marriage. Carrie shares honestly about the ups and downs of traveling by train and stage, of marriage to a man who never settles down (and often leaves his wife out of his business ideas), of starting over again and again.
I’d venture to say that Tabitha Moffat Brown, who wrote of her journey by wagon across the continent from Missouri to start a university in Oregon, was a more remarkable traveler than me, but the eastern papers commented on our previous year of so much travel. Frankly, exploring in different conveyances while hoping to remain friends with your husband, well, that might be the most remarkable challenge in any woman’s history. The eastern papers never wrote about that. ~ Carrie Adell Strahorn
Carrie’s story crosses the USA from Boston to San Francisco, from Fairhaven (now Bellingham) to Santa Fe. She and Robert “birthed” towns across the west, encouraging railroads and settlers to come to new places. She and her friends in Caldwell raised money to build a church and call a pastor for the only Presbyterian Church to be started by women. She helped her husband with his books and wrote her own articles and memoirs as well. And through it all, she stayed cheerful and strong.
Jane Kirkpatrick Does It Again
I’ve read many of Jane Kirkpatrick’s books. And while other novelists that I’ve read seem to fall into a rut with their writing, recreating old plots and old characters in each novel they write, Jane’s novels never do that. Everything She Didn’t Say kept me turning the pages to find out if Robert ever put down roots, if Carrie ever found her desire for children and purpose satisfied, where they traveled next. Carrie’s character leaps out of the novel, strong and intriguing, as she grapples with an unusual lifestyle at a turning point in American history.
Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of a number of historical novels about women of America, including Something Worth Doing, The Memory Weaver and All She Left Behind. Many of Jane’s novels have hit the New York Times and CBA bestseller lists and been nominated for various awards. Jane and her husband live in central Oregon. To find out more about Jane or her books, drop by her website.