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Into the Wilderness

At age twenty-nine, unmarried and without a fortune to secure her future, Elizabeth Middleton leaves England with her brother Julian and travels to the edge of the New York frontier to join their father in the village of Paradise. She has a goal: to open a school where all will be welcome. It is 1792, and Elizabeth has taken Mary Wollstonecroft's writings as her personal mission: in her school, girls will be encouraged to expand their minds and lives.

In the deep of winter she comes to Paradise and first encounters a man who challenges her understanding of this new world, and of her place in it. He is Nathaniel Bonner, a white man, a hunter and trapper, tall and whipcord lean, uncompromising in his honesty and unhampered by social conventions. From Nathaniel and his father, Hawkeye, she will learn the things that her father failed to tell her before she set out on this journey:

There are slave owners in the village of Paradise, men who are unlikely to let the children they consider possessions attend Elizabeth's school; more, there is animosity between the Bonner family, tied by inclination and marriage to the Mohawk, and the whites. A school where white, black and Mohawk children, free and slave, male and female, learn together will be difficult, if not impossible. Finally, her father never disclosed this situation because he had a different purpose in mind for her. He is deeply in debt to Richard Todd, the other major landholder in the village, a doctor, and a man in need of a wife. His daughter's marriage to Todd could forestall ruin; of less concern to Judge Middleton is the fact that it would call into question the ownership of Hidden Wolf, the mountain where Nathaniel, his father and grandfather, and a small group of Mohawk live and hunt, a people who know the cost of survival.

Elizabeth has ahead of her a choice between a traditional life she has never wanted and the kind of existence she never imagined; at stake are her principles, but also the lives and welfare of strangers who quickly earn her respect and admiration, and more. She conceives a plan that requires deception, sacrifice, commitment, and a flight into the heart of the wilderness, where she will learn Nathaniel's secrets, discover in herself the capacity for love, and be moved to passion and violence both.

In this first novel in The Wilderness Series, Sara Donati creates an intricate, profound portrait of a young America.

Important places

Albany (92)


Albany (100)


New York (9,763)


United States (64,950)

Other geographical areas

Adirondack Mountains (245)
Canadian Shield (805)
Appalachian Mountains (1,111)