Westward Journey is the story of a 15-year-old boy's 1849 travels from Michigan Territory to the California gold country. When his father and mother die within a few weeks of one another, Will Barlow must decide whether to work the family farm alone, or sell out and travel to California with the Wades, a neighboring family who were forced to abandon their home and land. Opting to leave Michigan, Will begins his cross-country journey with the Wades and soon discovers the dysfunctional relationship between the mysterious couple and their three children. He also inadvertently becomes an advocate for Mary Wade, abused wife of the tight-lipped and violent Henry Wade. Joining a wagon train at Kanesville (Council Bluffs) on the Missouri River, they begin their travels west along the Platte River, where Will meets and befriends a number of other westward-bound pioneers. Among them is Rebecca Baldwin, daughter of wealthy Boston judge Thaddeus Baldwin, who has been appointed to a territorial judgeship in California. After a few rocky meetings, Will and Becky become very close, but continue to be kept apart by a number of factors along the journey. Chief among these is a decision by some members of the party to split from the wagon train and take a short cut west. Written from Will's point of view, Westward Journey combine elements of literary fiction with the kinds of adventurous installments popularized by 19th century writers such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. It is simultaneously a coming-of-age story, romance, and western adventure.
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