Where the Lost Wander [Book Review]

April 28, 2020

 Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (cover) Image: Two covered wagons crossing a prairie

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Western Love Story, Westward Movement, Oregon Trail (U.S.History)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thanks, #netgalley #lakeunionpublishing for providing a free e ARC of #wherethelostwander by Amy Harmon in response to my request. All opinions are my own.

In 1853, newly widowed Naomi May sets out for the West with her family.  On the Oregon Trail which is filled with hardship, danger, and loss, she meets John Lowry. As the journey progresses and becomes more harrowing, they grow closer but their relationship is tested in intense and emotional ways.

My Thoughts:

Images Source: Wikipedia

Writing: If you’ve read From Sand and Ash (a favorite read) or What the Wind Knows, by Amy Harmon, you know that Harmon’s stories are beautifully written. A page-turner, Where the Lost Wander is filled with historical details and establishes a strong sense of place….. but it is also incredibly sad and difficult to read in places. Don’t miss the author’s notes detailing her own family history and the real characters upon which this story is based.

Genre: Where the Lost Wander is shelved as a western romance; however, I might tweak that and categorize it as a love story. Romance connotes a lighter and happily-ever-after story in which romance is the main focus. Where the Lost Wander consists of a significant amount of trauma, challenge, endurance, survival, and hardship. Romance plays a part in the narrative but it is not the main focus of the story. It’s more about their enduring love, faith in each other, survival, and hope for a bright future.

Prologue: I have mixed feelings about the Prologue. It is a spoiler for one of the main tragic events in the story. So while I was reading, I was anxiously anticipating this event. I’m not sure if it would be better to begin with Chapter One and skip the Prologue or not. In one way, reading the Prologue will give you a good preview of the intensity of the book’s content. If you skip it, you can always return to it when you arrive at that point in the story because it does add some details to the event. Because I read an ARC, the prologue may be changed before final printing.

Characters: Naomi and John are well-drawn, likable, strong-willed, and have great chemistry. John is quiet, hardworking, and introspective while Naomi is an artist, dreamer, and survivor. Because John is half Pawnee and half white, he and Naomi struggle to understand each other and to navigate both cultures. John works toward living authentically in a world with his mixed heritage and Naomi is concerned with the safety of her family and her own survival.  As you can see, Where the Lost Wander is much more than a romance as they deal with significant threats and compelling personal challenges. The hardships they face are not treated lightly and the author creates a realistic and harsh picture of pioneer trail life.

Themes: Poignant themes permeate Where the Lost Wander and include themes such as survival, persistence, determination, courage, living with mixed heritage, prejudice, racism, family loyalty, and community.

Recommended: Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, Where the Lost Wander is a well written, well-researched, and well-told story for fans of historical fiction. Recommended for readers who appreciate a western love story that features a strong sense of place and intense stories. Definitely, this is a compelling read for book clubs.

It might be interesting for Book Club members to explore their own family histories to determine if they share history with the pioneers or with the Oregon Trail. My own great grandparents settled on the plains of South Dakota and I’m sure there are interesting family stories to explore. Pioneer life would definitely be a great theme for a book club host to consider!

***This paragraph may contain spoilers***
Trigger and Content Warnings: heartbreaking and difficult to read passages, violent fighting, reference to a child abuse incident, description of a rape, scalping, massacre, and other pioneer hardships. (if this were a movie I would rate it R). Although this was heartfelt and poignant in places, page-turning, and beautifully written, it is also hard-hitting. If you loved From Sand and Ash and What the Wind Knows, you might be a little surprised with this heavier and grittier content.

My Rating: 4 Stars


Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon (cover) Image: two covered wagons crossing the wilderness

Where the Lost Wander Information

Meet the Author, Amy Harmon

Author, Amy Harmon (head shot, author leaning on right hand)Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Her books have been published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Utah.
Amy Harmon has written thirteen novels, including the USA Today Bestsellers, The Smallest Part, Making Faces, and Running Barefoot, and the #1 Amazon bestselling historical, From Sand and Ash. Her novel, A Different Blue, is a New York Times Bestseller. Her USA Today bestselling fantasy, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Best Book of 2016 finalist. For updates on upcoming book releases, author posts and more, join Amy at http://www.authoramyharmon.com.


Have you read any Amy Harmon titles? Is Where the Lost Wander on your TBR?


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    • Right?! I was surprised to find a major event spoiled in the prologue! It made me anxious while reading…wondering if this is the chapter where it happens.

  1. Great review Carol. I love your distinction between love and romance, that is so true. I added this to my TBR when I first heard about it as the author was highly recommended, but have not read any of her books yet. I really need to as she sounds very skilled at description and story development.

    • Often I find them by googling. Sometimes the author will include questions for book clubs in the back of the book…I don’t have the book to check. You could have everyone share their fav part of the book or have each person come with their own question to ask about the book. Sometimes by reading numerous reviews you can glean questions. Good luck!

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