Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: BOLD SPIRIT by Linda Hunt

I am a firm believer that buried in every family is a story.  Some stories are heroic, some are tragic, some tell of great loves, others of great losses.  Unfortunately, many of these stories are lost to time due to lack of preservation.  Sometimes people close to the situations are embarrassed by them.  Sometimes they assume no one else would be interested.  Bold Spirit tells of a story that was almost lost forever when the family of Helga Estby purposely burnt Helga’s memoires.  Only a few newspaper articles saved from the ashes by Helga’s daughter-in-law and hidden away are left to remember Helga’s historic feat.

Bold Spirit is the true story of Helga Estby, a Norwegian immigrant, who walked from Spokane, Washington to New York City in the late 1800’s.  When Helga was thirty-six years old, her family was suffering under a recession and fighting the foreclosure on their farm.  This desperation to save her home and to keep her husband and nine kids from starving, led Helga to accept a wager from a wealthy person in the NY fashion industry.  This sponsor wanted to promote shorter skirts, which would show a woman’s ankles (not really, the women wore high boots) and would allow more freedom of movement.  The sponsor promised Helga $10,000 if she would walk from Spokane to New York wearing the new shorter skirt.  This would promote the new fashion as well as support the growing women’s right movement.  Helga was only allowed to leave her home with $5 and was expected to earn her way across the country by selling pictures of herself.  She had seven months to complete the trip. 

So, on a cold Spring morning, Helga and her daughter, Clara, set forth on a walk which would take them across the country.  They used the local newspaper in each town that they stopped in to promote their walk and to drum up picture sales.  (It is this public record of small town newspaper articles which made writing this book possible.)  Along the way, Helga and Clara learned about the American Spirit and hospitality.  They lost their prejudices of the Native Americans.  They learned the physical strength that women possessed. 

I don’t want to give anything away.  Let’s just say, her kids at home were not happy about their mother traipsing all over the country while they were suffering at home.  These children burnt Helga’s memoires and forbid mention of Helga’s great journey.  Besides providing a snapshot of American history, Helga’s story taught me the importance of preserving our family histories. 

Overall, I give Bold Spirit

Plot – 3 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 2 bookmarks (This is low mostly because very little first-hand information on Helga exists.  The author had to piece her together through our sources.)
History – 4 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Tilda Swinton (Helga)

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