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The Good Journey

The Good Journey

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Inspired by actual letters, The Good Journey breathes life into history with a richly imagined chronicle of twenty tumultuous years in the marriage of two American pioneers.
Strong-willed Southern belle Mary Bullitt abandons her life of luxury in Louisville, Kentucky, when she marries General Henry Atkinson and accompanies him to his outpost on the Mississippi. Nothing has prepared her for marriage to this attractive older man -- or for the realities of frontier living. Conditions are primitive, Mary knows virtually nothing about her husband, and the threat of attack from Indians is constant. A rough and resourceful general, Henry is engaged in a long and historic clash with a great Native American leader, and his deeply conflicted feelings about Indians mirror those he and his wife have for each other.
In the tradition of Willa Cather and Edna Ferber, Micaela Gilchrist has crafted an exciting novel that is at once a love story and an action-packed depiction of the struggle for the West.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743223775 | 
  • November 2002
List Price $14.00
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Louisville, Kentucky, January 1826

gThere is no place more unforgiving or colder than a Louisville church on the first Sunday after Christmas, I thought as I navigated my way to our family pew. Despite the clutter of bodies, the air was glacial perfection, and with each passing moment, my hands and feet became more blockish and icy. Surely this was what was meant by mortification of the flesh. I grimaced at the Reverend Shaw, who said there was no contradiction to be found in the biblical entreaty to render unto Caesar. I could have cared less what Caesar was or was not owed, because the winter sun through the... see more

Reading Group Guide

A Scribner Paperback Fiction
Reading Group Guide
The Good Journey
Discussion Points

1. In the prologue, Mary finds a note in the General's pocket, written by the General to an anonymous person. Whom do you believe was meant to receive this note?
2. Mary Bullitt and Henry Atkinson were married for sixteen years. In your opinion, was this a happy marriage? Why or why not? In your opinion, would Mary have been better off as an unmarried woman in Louisville? Did she sacrifice too much in this union?
3. The Black Hawk War was a small event in the scope of U.S. history. Given that this scenario with Native Americans seemed to be on instant replay countless times throughout the nineteenth century, is there anything we can learn from the Battle at Bad Axe?
4. Mary Bullitt publicly defended her husband, General Henry Atkinson, against his adversaries. But privately, she admitted that her husband was a difficult man to know. Even the General's closest friends in St. Louis murmured that he was inscrutable. What did you think of the General?
5. Why did William Clark (as evidenced by his callous treatment of York, a key member of the Corps of Discovery), Mary Bullitt Atkinson and General Henry Atkinson profess sympathy for Native Americans, yet seem utterly unmoved by the plight of enslaved African-Americans?
6. Black Hawk left the Sauk people the night before U.S. troops came upon them at Bad Axe. Should Black Hawk have stayed with the 150 members of h see more

About the Author

Micaela Gilchrist
Photo Credit:

Micaela Gilchrist

Micaela Gilchrist is the author of The Good Journey, winner of the Women Writing the West Award and the Colorado Book Award. She lives with her family in Colorado.

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