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This novel is the first in a series of three such novels published to date. It is a riveting, page-turning work of well-written historical fiction. It is a story woven from the gossamer threads of history and infused with the creativity of this author, so as to produce an utterly spellbinding and ambitious, sweeping epic novel. This is a novel that will appeal to those who love rousing historical fiction that carries with it a sense of teeming and timeless adventure.
Those readers who have enjoyed the enormously popular
"Outlander" series of novels by author Diana Gabaldon will especially enjoy this book. It should be noted that Diana Gabaldon herself has warmly endorsed this book. Moreover, that its author is herself a fan of Ms. Gabaldon, there can be little doubt, as the two main characters in Ms. Gabaldon's best selling "Outlander" series make a brief appearance nearly midway through this book. Moreover, the author also incorporates James Fennimore Cooper's character "Hawkeye" from his book, "The Last of the Mohicans", adding to the intriguing pastiche of characters, historical, literary, and imaginative, who pepper this book.
The book is simple in its premise. An independent and outspoken, intelligent Englishwoman in her twenties, Elizabeth Middleton, leaves England with her brother Julian, to join their father, Judge Alfred Middleton, in the mountains of upstate New York, northwest of Albany. There, she meets Hawkeye's son, handsome backwoods man Nathaniel Bonner, a man who straddles two worlds, that of the white man and that of the native American, and finds herself falling head-over-heels in love with him.
Despite her father's attempts to marry her off to a wealthy landowner and the village doctor, Richard Todd, she gravitates towards Nathaniel in defiance of her father, who has his own reasons for wanting to marry her off to Dr. Todd. The good doctor also has his own secret agenda in this matter, a secret that he keeps well hidden until thwarted of his desire. To further complicate matters, Elizabeth sets herself up as a school teacher for all the children of the village in which she lives, black, white, and native American, but finds herself locked in conflict with those who believe that education is only for a select group.
What happens to Elizabeth and Nathaniel, as well as to their respective families, is positively gripping, given the adventures into which they are thrust. The author gives the reader a tantalizing glimpse into what life may have been like in upstate New York during that time period, with all its hardships, deprivations, and political and social turmoil, as well as the constantly shifting conflicts and alliances between the white settlers and the Mohawk nation.
Descriptively rich and densely plotted, filled with historical personages of the time and well-known historical events, this ambitious and compelling novel will have the reader compulsively turning the pages until the very end. It is simply a wonderfully told and enthralling tale that any discerning lover of historical fiction will enjoy. Bravo!
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on 30 August 1999
I know different people get different things from the books they read, but I honestly don't understand how any lover of romantic fiction could dislike this book. True, it's formulaic, but I don't mind a formula if the writing is good, and Donati is very good. She could often bring tears to my eyes, and was just as effective in helping me to see the great wilderness that much of the novel was set in.
From the beginning, I found myself comparing it to Gabaldon's series (probably because of her recommendation on the cover), which could have been very unfair as I think her books are among the best historical fiction I've ever read. But I must say _Into the Wilderness_ comes out well by comparison. I ended up caring as much about Elizabeth and her Nathaniel as I did about Claire and her Jamie, and that says a lot. Sometimes I did feel that Elizabeth and Claire were a lot alike - perhaps almost too much - but I do so enjoy a strong woman character. Elizabeth is definitely "writ large," but I'm glad when I run across a heroic female character for a change who takes her destiny in her own hands.
Since I could not put it down from the time I began reading it, I enthusiastically recommend this novel and I eagerly look forward to the sequel!
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on 21 June 1998
In the Winter of 1792, Elizabeth Middleton arrives from England to reside with her father, a renowned New York judge. Elizabeth hopes to become the teacher to the children of the wilderness town of Paradise, an area that the English lady finds intoxicating despite the bitter cold and the newness (to her) of Indians. However, it is a white man, wearing Mohawk garb, that most of shakes Elizabeth out of her complacency.
Nathaniel Bonner has feet in both worlds. He finds the feisty independence of Elizabeth an exciting brew. They work together as he constructs her schoolhouse, ultimately leading to her falling in love with him. However, prejudice and conflict between the whites and the Indians yank Nathaniel in two different directions and leave him as an undesirable as far as her esteemed father is concerned. Though she is her own person, will Elizabeth have the courage to defy tradition and her sire to go after the one person who can provide her a lifetime of love?
Sara Donati belongs in "Ripley's Believe It Or Not" because it is such a rarity to see a first time novel come together in near perfect harmony. The turmoil of the second decade following American Independence is so real, readers will believe they have been whisked there for first hand observations. The characters are all genuine and the action-packed story line is filled with the color of the period without losing its fast pace. Fans of historical romance, especially Americana, have found a strong author who, with more novels like INTO THE WILDERNESS, will raise the level of quality to unforeseen heights.

Harriet Klausner
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on 29 May 2001
Although I have never seen this book publicised in the UK, it is big overseas where the sequel has just been released.
I will admit that it was the endorsement from Diana Gabaldon on the cover which made me decide to buy it - I'm a big fan of the Jamie and Claire novels. This is in a similar style (and the author credits Gabaldon with support during the writing of it). I enjoyed it, but it was perhaps a little too derivative. The characters are attractive, though, and the story runs along nicely through its 800+ pages. I read it on a 24 hour plane journey and didn't get bored with it once. It would make a good read for anyone waiting impatiently for the fifth Gabaldon novel to come out but it misses the spark of the Jamie and Claire stories and the unusual idea upon which they are premised. Still worth a look...
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on 5 October 2001
I was drawn into a foreign yet strangely familiar world where not only was good fighting against the odds of evil, but true love was blossoming in the face of adversity. The inner struggle of a woman bucking the traditions of her era and her strength of conviction pour out, but not without battle.
Everything and everybody seemed to conspire to disrupt the lives of a few people, echoing the past, present and future struggles of all humans and perhaps, very deeply showing a light for us all to follow to find some kind of peace in the world.
I was absorbed into the plights of each and every character, loving, hating and moved many times to tears. A rollercoaster of emotions with every turn of the page.
I am desparate to pick up the story (Dawn on a Distant Shore) so that I can follow the lives of the Bonners in their endless struggle to keep their family and happiness intact.
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on 12 August 1999
I picked this book up based on a review about a year ago, and I've devoured it three times since.
There is such rich imagery and strong characters, a reader wants to return often for a visit. You won't be able to resist falling in love with Nathaniel and Elizabeth, and rooting them on through their adventure.
This is a must-read for any fiction lover.
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on 20 June 1999
I read this b/c Diana Gabaldon recommended it. I was very disappointed. The plot was so contrived, it was laughable.
Elizabeth is supposed to come across as a headstrong, intelligent woman (think Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice). Elizabeth Bennet was a woman ahead of her time: she read books, went through long walks in the rain, she spoke her mind, and she had a razor wit. But, equally important, she also had vulnerabilities: her love of her family who frequently mortified her, her snap judgments about people, her quick tongue, and her pride.
Donati's Elizabeth possessed all of Bennet's headstrong qualities, with nothing to soften her. No fast wit, no vulnerabilities, no humor. And certainly no love of family. And while we as 20th century readers can understand and respect her opinions on slavery and equal opportunity, it's hard to believe that an 18th century woman would be so ahead of her time. I half expected her to start up the suffragette movement.
In the end, I thought this book was contrived and way too serious.
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on 26 August 1999
The book starts off promising enough, but after about a hundred pages or so, you realize you are dealing with simple, one-dimensional characters. The good people are very, very good, and the bad people are very, very bad, with no gray area or subtlety in between.
Naturally, the Indians and black people are all kind, noble, intelligent and brave. The bad white people are vicious, venal, murderous and stupid. Like most dull novels, there is also a contrivance which makes our heroes almost invulnerable.
I was initially attracted to this novel because it takes place in 1792 upstate New York, but other than there being a lot of trees and lakes, one never gets the sense of colonial America. At least, one never gets the sense of colonial America beyond what one has already learned from grade school texts. This could have taken place in 1892 or 1692, or, in the way Nathaniel is cupping his hand around Elizabeth's breast every thirty pages or so, 1992.
I gave up
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on 15 June 1999
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel - I thought it was just stunning. I particularly liked the characterization of Elizabeth Middleton Bonner...there is nothing quite like a good, strong, fiesty female character (Curiousity is pretty cool as well)! Elizabeth reminded me a lot of Diana Gabaldon's character, Claire Fraser - so it was a real thrill to see Claire briefly mentioned in the tale! The detailed descriptions of life back then, especially the Indian way of life, are fascinating. I can't wait for the sequel, so I can find out if: Elizabeth's babies are born safely, if Kitty marries Richard and whether the Bonners leave Paradise for Scotland etc. I must say I was surprised to see Julian, Moses Southern and Billy Kirby killed off - who are the villians going to be in the sequel??
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on 24 September 1998
when i saw this book was recomended by diana gabaldon i knew it had to be at the very least passable. when i realized it was the continuation of last of the mohicans i could barely hand it over to the clerk to pay for it. but when i started to read it it was beyond my wildest expectations, dreams or fantacies!!! the first 200 pages are so passionate that i found breathing difficult. my "good sister" will curse me for saying this but into the wilderness was/is better than outlander! if anyone knows of any book that can tide me over until MS. donati publishes her next book i would appreciate the suggestion! if anyone knows where Ms. donati is signing her book let me KNOW!!!
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