Book Review of Against All Odds: The Lucy Scott Mitchum Story

Against All Odds: The Lucy Scott Mitchum Story
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From Publishers Weekly
Riefe's first novel outside of her Iroquois series (Mohawk Woman, etc.) displays her usual attention to historical detail, but little else of merit. When Lucy Scott Mitchum's idealistic husband, Noah, gets bitten by the 1849 gold bug, she dutifully packs her worldly possessions in a prairie schooner and accompanies him from Baltimore to Sacramento with their four-year-old daughter in tow. The family's six-month trek across the Great Plains and over the Sierra Nevada mountains should have resulted in high historical drama, but Riefe's uninspired narrative robs even stampeding buffaloes and hostile Indians of their impact. Some of the flattening comes from the way characters remain passing acquaintances. When one fellow traveler of the Mitchums commits suicide by jumping in a river, for instance, it barely causes a ripple in the reader's consciousness. After building up anticipation of an impending massacre by Cheyenne of traders in Fort Laramie, Riefe describes the event as viewed from a distance, with little color or excitement. While trouble crops up continually for Lucy and her kin, they sail through nearly unscathed. The family will at last reach Sacramento, but a number of readers will have jumped schooner long before.

From Library Journal
Readers who normally avoid Westerns will find Riefe's (Mohawk Woman, LJ 12/95) novel a real treat. The author's clear, appealing writing tells the fictional story of Baltimore native Lucy Scott Mitchum; her husband, Noah; and young daughter Lynette as they journey across America in 1849 to the gold fields of California. They travel with four other families in a wagon train and encounter various Native American tribes, charging buffaloes, sickness, and a tragic massacre. The reader will learn how to cook buffalo meat, treat toothache with chamomile tea, and shoe an ox. Riefe's writing style is pleasing, and most of the characters are believable and quite likable. As Lucy Mitchum reaches California and begins a new life as one of Sacramento's first school teachers, the reader shuts the book and wonders whether this was in fact a true story. A nice buy for Western and historical fiction shelves?