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Publisher's Summary

Set in the 1850s, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton speaks to you in a splendidly quirky voice: the strong, wry, no-nonsense voice of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, a young woman of courage, good sense, and good heart. It carries you into an America so violently torn apart by the question of slavery that it makes our current political battlegrounds seem a peaceable kingdom.Lidie grows increasingly important to you as you follow her travels and adventures on the feverish eve of the War Between the States. With its crackling portrayal of a totally individual and wonderfully articulate woman, its storytelling drive, and its powerful recapturing of an almost forgotten part of the American story, Jane Smiley is at her enthralling and enriching best.
©1998 by Jane Smiley; (P)1998 by Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"An immensely appealing heroine, a historical setting converyed with impressive fidelity, a charming and poignant love story." (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Donna on 05-26-05

Teriffic book, outstanding production

I have been an avid audiobook listener for many years, and this is truly the best I've ever heard. The narrator is spectacular and the book is every bit as wonderful as the narration. I can't say enough good things about this production.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By karen on 10-16-13

Magnificent, perfect for these troubled times

Funny -- when this book first came out, I, being a confirmed Jane Smiley fan, bought it, a paper copy, but try as I might, I couldn't get into it. I abandoned the book maybe 50 pages in. A few years later, I was in the local public library and saw they had the book on cassettes. I needed a long audiobook, so I checked it out. What a difference!

Anna Fields makes all the difference -- hearing "Lidie" tell us her story makes it all the more personal and intimate. Ms. Fields voice is ideal, not too cultured, not too much of a twang, just the way I'd expect Lidie to sound. I just finished listening to "The All True Adventures" again, this time on Audible, and know I'll go back to this one over and over. It's a classic.

In an interview, Smiley said she wrote this book as a romance, which, I suppose, it maybe is, given the basic fact that Lidie and her just-met husband depart for the dangerous and embattled "KT" - Kansas Territories --on their wedding night, and one of the book's themes is their getting to know each other, literally.

But it isn't just the tale of the 'newlyweds -- newly-mets, in fact -- that's compelling. It's the story of the times, just before the "official" start of the War Between the States, when the "goose question" reigned supreme. The "goose question"? Back then, in the 1850's, in Missouri, Kansas and other 'border' states, the question of slavery was simply too hot to touch, too contentious to even pronounce the word. You couldn't come right out and ask someone what their politics were, for fear of starting a personal war, right then and there. So you used an euphemism instead, asking what their position on "the goose question" was -- and the answer better be right, with "right" depending where, specifically, you were standing. A wrong answer could -- and many times did -- get you killed.

Lidie's tale of what it was like to "settle" a new land -- a kind of "Little House on the Prairie", Kansas style. Settlers arrived with nothing, claimed their homesteads, built a structure to live in, tried to plant a few crops, learned to make do with what's available, and began to depend (or not) on neighbors, as everyone dealt with grinding poverty, sickness and death, all day, every day. But it's not all sadness, because the ever-optimistic Lidie and Thomas -- whom she's learning is a fine and honorable man -- doesn't complain so much as she prevails. She even manages to snag an actual glass window -- can you imagine? Still, time and again, the settlers are stopped in their tracks, have to start all over again -- claim jumpers take over their land, drive them off, burn their homes. Or thieves steal everything, walk away with whatever they can. Especially heartbreaking is Lidie's tale of the "Sacking of Lawrence", when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, were murdered in a raid by vicious street-fighters from Missouri, the town, animals, possessions of everyone there destroyed.

To say more would be a spoiler, other than to note this is an extremely timely tale. Today, in the US, equally contentious issues prevail, even if physical violence, one against another, isn't quite the same. Lidie's "All True Adventures" proves that's nothing new -- in fact, it's the way the nation was born, how it survived, how it grew and became what it was.

Today's "goose question" might very well be "Obamacare", or the question -- again -- of states rights, or of what role the government should play in everyday affairs. Nothing new under the sun -- the United (just barely) States is fighting it out again. Which means that to gain some perspective, "The All True Adventures" is a book not to be missed.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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