Jane Kirkpatrick has quite a gem in What She Didn’t Say. Taking the memoir of the real life heroine Carrie Adell Strahorn, “mother of the West” Kirkpatrick uses historical evidence to read between the lines of the memoir and tap into the more personal side of her story – her emotions, disappoints and celebrations. Honestly speaking, I was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t turn into an easy love story, but was quickly won over to the integrity and truth found within this story. Kirkpatrick packed historical research into this novel and she has written a beautiful story of real life and love on the frontier of the West.
Life isn’t always made up of fairytales and it is refreshing to read about a woman who was seasoned by life’s challenges found in relationships, dreams – both broken and fulfilled, marriage and death all in a state of constant moving.
Kirkpatrick’s rendition of this story made me want to read the memoirs that inspired it, to dive into the spirit of the west and see a first hand testimony of what settling it looked like so shortly after the civil war. There is also the introduction of the railroads and both beautiful and dark sides of progress, both of which Carrie Strahorn was intimately familiar with. Kirkpatrick also addresses the undercurrents of the Strahorn marriage and dives into the troubled waters that undoubtedly come sprinkled throughout 50 years of marriage.
As a rating, I will give this book a 4.5 stars. The way in which the writing is structured with three versions of her thoughts: Her journal, her narrative and her memoir it took me a while to adjust to the different pace. Also, there are no other viewpoints to read from as it is all based on Carrie’s memoir and therefore her perspective. Again, an adjustment. By the second half though I was sailing through it with little effort and enjoyed the thought provoking questions that Carrie brought to mind.