knitting socks

The Year We Were Famous

“By the time we reached Utah, Ma and I had been walking for over two months and covered over nine hundred and eleven miles. I had already worn out four pairs of shoes. Unfortunately, I had only one pair of feet, and they had to last me until New York City.”

Carole Estby Dagg, The Year We Were Famous, Based on the true story of young Clara Estby’s walk across America


Early excitement about my fall road trips could be what originally interested me in The Year We Were Famous, a travel tale set in 1896. I first heard of the book this summer when the author, Carole Estby Dagg, wrote about her revision process in an intriguing post on Darcy Pattison’s Fiction Notes. She described how her book had evolved over a period of fifteen years. I made note of the title. One hot and lucky afternoon a few weeks later, when browsing in the Iowa City library children’s room new book section, I found an available copy.  

The Year We Were Famous is a warm-hearted, well-written, and sometimes, very funny story of perseverance. Based on the true accounts of the author’s great-aunt and great-grandmother, it tells of their pedestrian journey from Mica Creek, Washington to New York City. Their trek was a bet made with Miss A. J. Waterson. If they successfully completed it in just seven months, Clara and her mother Helga were to earn $10,000. Back then, that was money enough to save their family farm and create a college fund for Clara and her siblings.

Unprepared for the almost all of the challenges of such a journey, sensible Clara and passionate Helga face devastating defeats and nearly lose their spirits. By testing their resolve and courage, the trip helps them to uncover new truths and understandings in their complicated relationship. When you reach the book’s tender ending, you will want to stand up and cheer Carole Estby Dagg for sharing their honest story with us.

The Year We Were Famous is highly recommended reading for those about to board their comfortable car and take off for parts known and unknown. It may also be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s favorite reading chair.

Visit the author’s website.

Watch the book trailer.

Knitting Notes:

Never doubt the importance of a good pair of socks when on a pedestrian journey.  Check out the  Elegance Socks pattern.