Book Review: “Rosette: A Novel of Pioneer Michigan” by Cindy Rinaman Marsch

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Book Review, Historical Fiction, Rosette by Cindy Rinaman Marsch

The book Rosette opens in 1888. Rosette reflects on her decision to leave her marriage two years earlier. Back then, she abandoned her children who were mostly grown and took the train from Michigan to Dakota Territory. There, she would live with her oldest son. This reflection written by the author, emerges from the fragment of a journal entry. In her journal, Rosette has crossed out her description of her wedding day and inserted “Unholy and Unhappy bonds of marriage.” And, she describes her feelings as “sincerely DETEST and ABHOR.”

With that introduction, Marsch then takes us back to an earlier time. She introduces the journal of Rosette Cordelia Ramsdell in September 1856. Rosette is an amazingly literate woman, school teacher and accomplished seamstress living in rural Michigan. The story follows Rosette through the courtship, marriage and births of her children and introduces us to members of her family. Marsch uses the brief excerpts from Rosette’s journal to provide authenticity to the story.

Marsch presents a story consistent with the journal, which she discovered and translated. She continues to use much of the language from it, inventing facts in the story only when necessary.

The author confesses that she is “fascinated by books that reveal whole persons by unearthing and sometimes embellishing the primary source materials.” In this spirit, she offers the book as a gift to the memory of Rosette and her family. Other than the journal, Marsch found only scraps of information. The historic Rosette and her husband Otis have since disappeared into history.

Although I wished for a little more mystery and drama as I read the story, I admired Marsch’s book and followed the story to the end. Rosette gives us an authentic picture of rural life in Michigan in the last half of the 1800’s. That makes it fascinating for those of us interested in history. Book Website