“I was a woman. A woman that truly lived.”
Award-winning author Kathleen Morris has once again given readers a novel that brings true historic figures to life through her diligent research and talented storytelling. Through documents, photos, and stories gifted to the author [included in the book] from Nellie Cashman’s surviving family, Morris wrote a wonderful novel titled Golddigger, The Legendary Nellie Cashman, A Novel.
This novel is like stepping into a time capsule where Morris aptly transports the reader on Nellie Cashman’s true-life journey to what we now call Alaska, The Last Frontier, and parts in between.
Life wasn’t easy for women in the mid to late 1800s and Nellie Cashman’s story was no different. It begins as a young child when she sets sail with her mother and sister leaving the deadly famine of Ireland behind. Landing in Boston, they find life harsh, unforgiving, and unwelcoming for anyone of Irish descent.
Some could say that Nellie Cashman had a restless soul. Restless or not, I call her a woman to be admired whose life had focus and purpose. Determined to seek a better life, Nellie convinces her mother and sister to travel to San Francisco. Here she finds the city a bit more welcoming yet crowded, demanding, and bursting at the seams with throngs of people.
“I need pristine space, the thrill of chances and risk, and to feel as though I was the first person to step foot somewhere and find the mysteries the land beneath my feet held so closely, as well as the solace and satisfaction that came to me in that endeavor.” Nellie Cashman
With her mother and sister safely settled in San Francisco, Nellie reads all she can get her hands on regarding news of the Gold Rush up north. The thought of finding gold sparks a flame in Nellie to seek out new adventures on her own terms. No woman had done what she was about to embark on. But determination was something she held firm to.
“Women are able to do pretty much anything a man can, and I was living proof of that. All it took was the desire and gumption to do it. I wish more women followed that creed.” Nellie Cashman
While reading Morris’s intriguing story, I wondered how Nellie would have survived in today’s environment. As a strong-willed woman, I believe she would still search out untouched lands and claim the vast spaces as her own.
An Irish immigrant and devout Catholic, the newspapers of the day called Nellie the Angel of the Cassiar and Saint of the Klondike. Shying away from these titles, Nellie’s lucrative gold claims made her a prosperous entrepreneur allowing her to establish boarding houses, hotels, mercantile shops, and restaurants and benefactor to those in need. Despite her lust for discovery and gold, she always put her family and others ahead of herself.
“I was no saint, no angel. I was simply a woman who lived her life on her own terms, never regretting a single day . . .” Nellie Cashman
Morris effortlessly paints a picture while taking the reader through Nellie’s journey of love’s betrayal, the death of family and friends, brutal elements, wonderous discoveries, and most importantly, survival. Lastly, the unexpected but welcomed joy of being a mother and aunt to her deceased sister’s children.
Morris writes stories the reader will want to finish in one sitting and this story is no different. So begin your new read with this wonderfully written story. You may purchase this and other books written by Kathleen Morris from her website, your favorite local bookstore, and online bookstores.