The Desert Dwellers Trilogy, Book Three
For the third novel in the Desert Dwellers Trilogy, I sought a plot that would force Frieda out of Dos Cacahuates, population 200, maybe, and into the center of Arizona life, Prescott, the Territorial Capital, then a political cesspool. A family murder and kidnapping adjudicated under outlandish circumstances in 1886-1887 provided the framework. Frieda and other trilogy characters mix with personalities and events culled from Territorial records and period newspapers. From this partly true, partly imagined tale, credible characters emerge: an East Coast couple on a literary assignment, a Tenth Cavalry veteran, a power-crazed sheriff, a girl-chasing district attorney, an unpopular territorial governor, and Jews of every stripe. Things happen, the more incredible, the truer. A little-known variation of the inexhaustible immigrant family story develops. A timely one that shifts from group action against societal inequities, the customary focus of ethnic and women's stories, to responsibility for one's own misdeeds.
Arizona Territory, 1886-1887:
When her visiting kid sister is abducted, Frieda, distraught and blaming herself, leaves her husband to care for their children and sets out to find the missing girl and return her to their devastated parents. On her own in a scruffy hotel, three jails, a makeshift law office, a Jewish-owned inn, two boisterous courtrooms, and at a bizarre adjudication and execution, she discovers why the Arizona Territory is called "the nation's roughhouse." Stripped of illusions, amends made, more to be made, she returns home to those who await and welcome her.
"Rochlin offers a fascinating tale of the Old West from a Jewish perspective that is not often found in books, while her expertise in early Arizona life will appeal to all western aficionados." - Booklist, American Library Association
"I just finished reading the third of the trilogy, On Her Way Home -- what a great read. It ought to be a movie. Your descriptions of the women are fabulous, Frieda and Mrs. Isaacs in particular. I know these women! The men, so precise -- the sheriff, Bennie, the lawyer, Jed, that sleazepot, the governor -- the jail, the courtroom scenes are compelling. You can just feel the corruption, the finagling that went on. Has anything changed since then? You are so talented!" - Gloria Donin Sosin, Red Letter Year
"On Her Way Home . . . is an historical adventure, full of plot twists. Besides using historical documents, Rochlin interweaves many anecdotes describing Jewish life in San Francisco and in various places in Arizona. . . . It will enrich the fiction section of any synagogue or public library." - Nira Wolfe, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
"A swiftly paced narrative of mystery, intrigue and devotion on the Western frontier. A page turner with a Jewish twist." - Leonard Dinnerstein, Professor of History, University of Arizona
"The book soon developed into a courtroom drama, and I know better than to tell you how it turned out, because this would spoil all the fun for you. But I can tell you this: I stayed hooked until the plot reached its denouement." - Donald H. Harrison, San Diego Jewish Press Heritage
"Harriet Rochlin's On Her Way Home is one great story, sure to become an instant classic.... Rochlin combines a page-turning historical courtroom thriller with a passionate rendering of family, misfortune and faith. She gives us a message powerful enough to make us believe we've stepped back into time. . . . Most importantly . . . Rochlin pierces every heart, giving back a slice of hope and history we never knew we lost." - Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of Where Lilacs Still Bloom
Roots West Press (2001)
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