I found Dream Chasers of the West: A Homestead Family of Glacier Park at a souvenir shop during my trip to Glacier National Park in 2015. I was intrigued by the back of the book description about Clara Miller who left Minnesota at thirty and unmarried in 1913 to homestead in Montana. The fact that it was a true story intrigued me more.
I’ve long time been a fan of the history of people and things – more of the development through time rather than politics. Clara Miller Smiley’s story was no different. Though it’s a biography, Clara’s story (and her family’s) is told like fiction. It’s full of dialogue, description, and showing rather than telling. There are occasional paragraphs where the author writes an aside or wonders about what Clara may have been thinking at the time; though these asides weren’t necessary, they were brief and didn’t detract from my reading.
In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will just say that Clara experienced joy in her life but also incredible hardship. She lived through the depression and worked in the new tourism industry, all while trying to find her true self and follow her passion. Clara, always a storyteller, dreamed of being a writer and publisher; maybe she didn’t achieve literary fame but I’m certain she entertained dozens of people with her stories, usually a writer’s goal anyway.
I read most of this book while still in Montana, finishing the last few chapters after I returned home. It was a fascinating story and interesting to try to find the places in real life that were written about. So, on a can’t-put-it-down-scale of one for I couldn’t even finish it to ten for I was up until the wee morning hours, I give it an eight.
If you have been to Glacier National Park or are just interested in pioneering stories, you will enjoy this book.