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April 20, 2023

The View from Half Dome by Jill Caugherty ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

The View from Half Dome
is a coming-of-age story set during the Depression about a young girl who is looking for a better life away from the tragedy and negativity of her life.  She finds her freedom and her new life in the beauty of the outdoors in Yosemite National Park.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The View from Half Dome by Jill Caugherty
April 2023; Black Rose Writing; 978-1685131807
ebook, print (286 pages); historical fiction

It's 1934 and Isabel hates the changes in her life.  In the previous year, her father died, her brother joined the CCCs in Yosemite Park and her mother had to go to work as a hotel maid plus the family had to move from their nice house to a squalid rundown apartment in the dangerous Tenderloin district of San Francisco.  It's up to Isabel to run the house, cook the meals, take care of her 9-year-old sister, go to school, and work part-time.  After a horrible tragedy, she leaves a note for her mother and runs away to see her brother.  She has no idea that she can't stay with him because only males are allowed in the camps.  She's taken in by Enid, the only female ranger in the entire Park service, and her husband. From Enid, she gains a better understanding of herself and her strengths by learning more about nature.  Just when she embraces her new life and makes plans for her future, she receives news from home that may change all of her dreams for the future.

The author does a fantastic job of writing about the beauty of Yosemite and we see Isabel's gradual change as she learns more about nature from Enid.  The more she learns, the more she changes into the person she wants to be in the future.  Will she be able to make her dreams come true or will her role as a female - and therefore a caregiver - cause her to return to her previous life in San Francisco?

I enjoyed seeing Isabel grow up and make dreams for her future after losing so much in her life.  My favorite character was Enid - an older woman who was the only ranger/naturalist in the park system and fought the sexism against her every day because she was a woman in a man's world.

Though the book is fiction, it's based on some real people - Enid Michael worked as a naturalist/ranger at Yosemite in the 1930s and she and her husband were expert climbers.  She was faced with unfair criticism from her supervisor who believed that women shouldn't be rangers.  There are also glimpses of Ansel Adams, the famed photographer, and his wife.

This coming-of-age story is a book about hope, forgiveness, and the healing power of nature.  It looks at the difficulty of overcoming social beliefs based on age and sex.  It's also a terrific look at the plants, birds, and mountains of Yosemite.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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