Vickie McDonough. Long Trail Home. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.
I would like to thank Moody Publishers for my review copy of this book. See here for Moody’s page about it.
This book is part of the Morgan Family Series, which is also called Texas Trails. I have read the sixth book of this series, End of the Trail, which is about Brooks Morgan, who left his family and was reunited with his parents and siblings near the book’s end. Long Trail Home is about Brooks’ parents, Riley and Annie: how they met and fell in love, and how they found faith. Both books were written by Vickie McDonough.
Except for the background narrative, Long Trail Home is set in Texas soon after the Civil War. Riley is returning from the war, only to find that the family that he left has been slaughtered by renegade Comanche, and that his fiancee has married another man. Riley is saddened that he cannot reconcile with his parents, whom he left years earlier after his little brother had been bitten by a rattlesnake and died. After his return, Riley finds work at a local blind school, and there he meets Annie, a young woman who is pretending to be blind. Years before, Annie sought refuge at the blind school after her father abandoned her, yet the donor to the school required that the school only admit children who are blind. As a result, Annie pretended to be blind in order to stay at the school, and she kept up the act after reaching adulthood. The only other person who knows the truth is the school’s headmistress, Laura.
Annie is initially upset that Riley will be working at the school, for she will have to be more diligent in feigning her blindness, lest her secret become known. Riley loves her and is protective of her, but he is reluctant to be in another relationship after his finance married another man. Meanwhile, there is the relationship between Laura and the local blacksmith, Sean Murphy. Laura and Sean were engaged to be married, but Sean wanted Laura to take care of him rather than working at the blind school. They broke off the engagement, and yet Sean has not married anyone else. Meanwhile, the donor to the school has died, and the donor’s sinister nephew has designs on taking the property and closing down the school. Moreover, people in Texas are recovering from the war and adjusting to the changes accompanying its aftermath.
I enjoyed this book, for a variety of reasons. First, the romantic element was sweet, and I especially liked Riley’s bumbling (i.e., comparing Annie’s eyes to cow’s eyes and intending that as a compliment). Second, I loved many of the characters, such as Sean Murphy, who stood up for African-Americans, and the compassionate revival preacher with the name of “King James,” who reminded Annie that we all sin and that this is why we need to ask God for forgiveness. Annie was a pick-pocket when she was a child, and she felt guilty at deceiving people about being blind. And third, I appreciate the book’s theological points. Riley was repulsed by Christianity because he wondered why God allowed so many bad things to happen, yet he realized that “he was as tired of fighting God as he was the war” (page 179).
I give the book five stars, with two minor criticisms. First of all, should Annie have felt guilty, when she was only doing what she felt she needed to do to survive? I think the book should have explored what her other options were. What else could Annie have done? Could she have pursued a righteous path? Should she have trusted God to take care of her? Second, the book did have political discussions: Riley wondering if the war was worth fighting (on both sides), many Texans opposing slavery, Annie being suspicious of Riley because he had fought for the Confederacy and she was anti-slavery, African-Americans anticipating a fresh start with their own land, and Texans wondering if they could continue to produce cotton without slaves (and some suggesting a shift to ranching). This was good, but I was hungry for more of that sort of discussion in the book.