Book reviews

Have You Seen Me? Save the Widow Sanderson

Lydia Sanderson, lately of Williamsport, PA, is a slight, tall woman with graying hair and a determined nature.  She is often seen with pursed lips.  Her skin is badly chapped.  She is in need of a manicure.  In addition to wearing her late husband’s outer garments, she rides astride, boldly pulling her skirts high.  At present the decorum-flaunting Miss Sanderson is toiling as a dairy maid in the pages of Molly Gloss’s The Jump-off Creek

Lydia disembarked from the Central Pacific Railroad in Eastern Oregon in early April.  She then overnighted at Mrs. Mailer’s guest house.  There she shamelessly declared her intention of becoming a cattlewoman.  Impervious to Mrs. Mailer’s objections, she set off the next morning for Jump-off Creek in the Blue Mountains. 

The smattering of folk in the Jump-off vicinity are of the lonely, grim, humorless bachelor, pimply-faced wolver, and quarter-breed varieties (evidently the place is too poor to manage halves).  Goats, cattle, and bear make up the rest of the mountainous region’s population.  The area’s two-legged inhabitants occupy abodes nearly as rustic as the sheds and lean-tos where their scrawny livestock reside.

In addition to encounters with wolves, man- (and woman-)eating bear, frost bite, sun burn, randy cattlemen bachelors, faulty guns, caving roofs, mud, slippery terrain, and starvation corn meal rations, the country into which Miss Sanderson has lodged is steep, with rocky soil unfit for growing even a humble squash. 

If Miss Sanderson does not succumb to scurvy, a wolver’s errant bullet, or a deadly stab from a falling icicle, her already poor orthographic skills are certain to atrophy further, and her wardrobe to further deteriorate.  Citizens for the Preservation of Womanhood are also very much concerned about Miss Sanderson’s dismissal of an offer of marriage by one of her mountain-dwelling, bachelor cattlemen neighbors. 

It is not too late.  No expenses should be spared.  Miss Sanderson must be rescued and packed onto an east-bound train post-haste.  Citizens for the Preservation of Womanhood has pledged to enroll Miss Sanderson in a finishing school where she can cultivate skills more suited to the feminine nature: needlepoint, calligraphy, and love poems to dead or dying suitors.




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