Publication Date: February 13, 2024
How far would you go? How much would you risk?
Hailey MacIntyre seems conjured from the depths of Samuel Fiddes’s loneliness. Caring for his young sister in the tenements of Glasgow, Scotland, Samuel has known only hunger, while Hailey has never known want. Yet, when Samuel saves Hailey’s brother from a runaway carriage, their connection is undeniable.
Through secret meetings and stolen moments, their improbable love grows. But then the City of Glasgow Bank fails, and Hailey’s bankrupt father impulsively moves their family across the globe to Seattle, a city rumored to have coal in its hills and easy money for anyone willing to work for it.
Samuel is haunted by Hailey’s parting words: Remember, Washington Territory. Armed only with his wits, he determines to follow her, leaving behind everything he has ever known in search of Hailey and the chance of a better life for his sister. But the fledgling town barely cut out of the wilderness holds its own secrets and will test them all in ways unimaginable.
Poignant and lyrical, A Wild and Heavenly Place is an ode to the Pacific Northwest, to those courageous enough to chase the American Dream, and to a love so powerful it endures beyond distance, beyond hope.
There was a richness to the book that begins in Scotland and culminates in the Pacific Northwest, mainly in and around Seattle. The story takes place from 1878 to 1882 and is told in five parts in alternating chapters by one of the main characters. The newspaper or book references provided at the start of each section helped set the stage for what was to come.
There are layers to the story as we get to know Samuel and Hailey—two Scots from different sides of the tracks. But there is an immediate attraction and chemistry, although Hailey’s mother thinks Samuel will never amount to much. Wherever Samuel goes, his young sister, Alison, whom he raises the best he can, is with him. Hailey’s charitable deeds are not unappreciated but mean so much to both of them, especially as their circumstances change. When Hailey’s family wealth is lost, they start their journey across England by sea to get to the Seattle area, where a job has been promised.
A Wild and Heavenly Place is a moving story, and I sometimes had tears in my eyes with what the characters had to endure. Life doesn’t treat either of them fairly, but Samuel is strong and does his best to rewrite his destiny, hopes, and dreams through his hard work, and he surprises many while on his way to doing just that.
Throughout it all, Ali is by his side. We get to know Samuel and Hailey’s families a little at a time, and Hailey finds inner resources to get through each day in a life that she never expected or dreamed of. There are lessons learned, hardships lived and endured, and happiness taken when given.
There are so many vivid descriptions throughout that made me feel like I was there. I could sense the weather and the muck and smell the pleasant and off-putting odors. There was the disdain of many characters whose paths we crossed but also friendships forged and tested. There was hard work, lessons learned, those who could be trusted, and those best avoided. There are so many stories told and woven together. The historical facts and references drew me in since the settling of the West is one of my favorite periods in U.S. History.
The epilogue, which takes place eight months after the story ends, gave me the closure I crave, although I wish it went on a tad longer. Ms. Oliveira is a new-to-me author, and I look forward to reading more of her books, all of which have been added to my TBR pile.
A Wild and Heavenly Place is historical fiction with a touch of romance, but hardships, unexpected circumstances, and kindness all play a role as the characters forge their way in a new land they call home.
Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter, I Always Loved You, and Winter Sisters. She holds a BA in Russian and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a former registered nurse, specializing in critical care. She lives near Seattle, Washington.