1890s. Colorado. Following her mother’s sudden death, thirteen-year-old Hannah Owens is hired as domestic help by a wealthy doctor’s family in Colorado Springs. When the doctor declares bankruptcy and abandons his family to finance his mistress Pearl DeVere’s brothel, Hannah is thrown into a world of gold mining bonanzas and busts, rampant prostitution and the economic, political and cultural upheavals of the era. Two of Cripple Creek’s most colorful historic characters, Winfield Scott Stratton, eccentric owner of the richest gold mine in Cripple Creek, and Pearl DeVere, the beautiful madam of The Old Homestead come to life as this old-fashioned, coming-of-age saga unfolds, a tribute to the women who set the stage for women’s rights.
Many thanks to The Write Reads and the author for my spot on the tour, and for providing me with a digital copy of the book. I was really intrigued by this book – I love historical fiction, and the setting was not one I had read much about.
Cripple Creek comes alive in this book, as Eichmann repopulates the mining town with characters both historical and fictional. The novel doesn’t shy away from the harsh, brutal reality of life for women at the time – in a way, despite the very different setting, it reminded me of Maggie Richell-Davies’ excellent novel The Servant, which I read last year (and not just because the protagonists share a name!). Both books expose the vulnerability of being a lower class woman in their respective societies, and the terrible power men wield over their lives and their bodies. In A Sparrow Alone, themes of prostitution and exploitation are explored in myriad ways: it is a bleak picture, but within the constraints of their situations, the resourcefulness and resilience of the women shine through.
Hannah is an engaging protagonist, and I enjoyed following her story. The fictionalised versions of real historical characters are well done, and Stratton in particular is a fascinating character – although I found him much more disturbing than the protagonist seemed to. The dialogue between characters occasionally sacrifices realism at the altar of exposition, and there are a lot of lengthy discourses which could have been more subtly folded into the narrative, but the content is interesting, and it didn’t detract too much from the story. Likewise, I found the pacing a bit uneven: important events sometimes take place off-stage, and for me, the ending was slightly rushed. Despite these little quibbles, however, I did find myself immersed in Hannah’s world and keen to find out what happened next.
A Sparrow Alone is an entertaining, fast-paced story which paints a vivid picture of life for women at the time. There is a sequel, Muskrat Ramble, coming out in March this year – fans of historical sagas should check out these books and discover Cripple Creek for themselves!
About the Author
(from Mim Eichmann’s website):
Mim Eichmann has found that her creative journey has taken her down many exciting, interwoven pathways. For well over two decades she was known primarily in the Chicago area as the artistic director and choreographer of Midwest Ballet Theatre and director of its home, Midwest Ballet Academy, bringing full-length professional ballet performances to thousands of dance lovers every year and was the recipient of many arts’ programming grants. A desire to become involved again in the folk music world brought about the creation of her acoustic quartet Trillium, now in its 15th year, a folk band well known for its eclectic repertoire performing throughout the Midwest that has also released four cds. She’s also written the lyrics and music for two award-winning original children’s cds, “Why Do Ducks Have Webby Toes?” and “Wander Down Beyond the Rainbow” and occasionally schedules concerts of her children’s music and movement programs.
Always captivated by the writings, diaries and journals of late 19th century women, as well as that era’s economic, social and political upheavals, Ms. Eichmann has now put pen to paper and the historical fiction novel she has been passionately researching, its rich synopsis gradually evolving over many years, has finally become a reality. We hope you’ll enjoy “A Sparrow Alone” and its sequel, “Muskrat Ramble.”
Author website: https://www.mimeichmann.com/