The Measure of Katie Calloway
By Serena Miller
c. October 2011
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Miller’s story about an antebellum abused wife fleeing north to Michigan timber country and winds up as a cook in a rough and tumble lumber camp is a satisfying step back in time.
Katie Calloway, young and naïve Pennsylvania minister’s daughter, marries her brother’s West Point friend and moves south to become mistress of a slave-run plantation. Not only does she enter the strange and confusing world of ownership of other humans, the War Between the States becomes a reality and she is left alone when her husband goes to fight. The story begins a couple of years after the conclusion of the war, when all that’s left to Katie and her young orphaned brother is her pride. Realizing that her husband does more than just despise her, she takes Ned and runs.
Blessed with jumping into the right place at the right time, Katie meets Robert Foster, owner of a lumber camp, who is in need of a cook. At the camp filled with rough lumbermen for a winter of work, Katie is thrust into an experience that will either make her stronger or break her spirit for good. Getting along with the wounded camp cook who is supposed to help her is only the first bump in the road. Falling in love with the wounded widower, Robert, and his children, and keeping her secret, is compounded when a former slave of her husband’s shows up to work at the camp. And when her brutal husband eventually tracks her down, will anyone come to her rescue?
Miller’s use of shanty song refrains to open each chapter is a delight, and adds just the right nuance to each section. I could hear the singing and fiddle playing, smell the pine trees and the flapjacks during her wonderfully smooth narrative. Characters that capture your heart, from the surly trickster Jigger, to the gentle carver Cletus, to Moon Song and her baby, to Skypilot, the once-upon-a-time preacher, readers of historical romantic inspirational fiction will escape to the years immediately following the Civil War in the boom time of Michigan with this lovely read. Reminiscent of other great reads, like Naomi Musch’s Empire in Pine series.