I read this mammoth novel (1400 pages including notes and bibliography) several years ago. It really delves into the story of Sacajawea from her youth to old age. Not much is really known about what happened to her in her later years. Many think she died young but this book and its author support the theory that she did indeed live to old age. Brilliantly researched and highly recommended!
ISBN 0380842939 - As a kid, I planned to be Sacajawea when I grew up; books about her remain high on my list of interests. This book is fiction: this matters because I think it impacts how you read it. It is also huge, not quite 1400 pages: the text is 1326 pages - notes and bibliography take it to 1408. Those last 82 pages lend some credibility to the thought that the book is NOT fiction, a negative to me, as are the utterly useless maps that are too small to read. Almost worth every hour it takes to read. A short review is nearly impossible, but I've tried.
Sacajawea's story, from her childhood with her Shoshoni tribe through her probable death in 1812 is fascinating reading. Kidnapped, traded, lost in a bet, Sacajawea remains strong - this strength serves her well when she and her white man, Toussaint Charbonneau, are chosen to act as guides and interpreters for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Across the country and back on his mother's back, Jean Baptiste is Sacajawea's link to everything of importance to her - her Shoshoni heritage, the white men's new ways and Captain Clark, who takes the boy under his wing and provides him an education after Sacajawea's real world death.
The book takes a downward spiral after the author begins to write the story of the 75 or so years that Sacajawea didn't actually live. It is unacceptable to imagine that the woman of the first portion of the book simply left her beloved son behind and walked off into the plains. Pieced together from various tribal mythologies, since dis-proven theories and unreliable witness statements, her path takes her into and away from several tribes and places, providing her with several things she never had - a happy loving marriage, a reunion with her people, a place and name of respect during her lifetime, and a peaceful, dignified and painless death (in 1884). Sadly, it goes on so long and in such excruciating detail that there were times I almost gave up finishing.
This is a really good read, despite the lack of historical accuracy in many parts. The Sacajawea in the story, while fictional, does provide a link between the world she was born into, free of white men, and the world that followed, when white men had destroyed many of the ways of Indian tribes and confined them to reservations. That both worlds are harsh, ugly, and brutal and still have beauty and hope is nicely written and Sacajawea, as a wise elder and a woman who has lived in both worlds, is a superb tool for defining the differences. That several states try to claim the title of her place of birth or death and that many Native American tribes claim connections that could not have been only highlights the status Sacajawea earned, albeit long after her death. Read it for the story, not for the history.
Traci M. reviewed Sacajawea (Lewis & Clark Expedition) on
Helpful Score: 3
This is the longest book I've ever read. It's interesting, but the same thing over and over again. They could have shortened it by half. I read about 1000 pages of the 1328 page book and just sort of lost interest. It's WAAAAY too long and WAY too detailed. There's plent of blood and guts. After reading this I feel like I've gotten a degree in Indian life.
This book should be considered a classic. With several years of research behind it, as well as very good writing and story-telling ability, the author really did a wonderful job both entertaining and educating. I have read it more than once and recommended it to many people. I believe it should be considered a classic because of the reasons above, and should be suggested reading both for historical and composition reasons. If it weren't for Waldo's story-telling skill, the book might hold interest but remain dry. Without the years of research, it would be just another novel.
The heroic saga of a great woman whose life tells the story of a nation. Her name was legend and the legend was America.
Clad in a doeskin, alone and unafraid, she stood straight and proud before the onrushing forces of America's destiny. Sacajawea: the beautiful child who sprang from the savage keep of a Shoshoni camp high in the Rockies, the lone woman on Lewis and Clark's historic trek.
Ten years in the writing, SACAJAWEA unfolds an immense canvas of people and events, and captures the eternal longings of a woman who always yearned for one great passion--and always it lay beyond the next mountain.