One of the best books I have read in a very long time. It was hard at times to remember that it is a work of fiction. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical works.
Set against the true historical facts of what the government under President Grant was doing to the native populations (broken treaties, half fulfilled or non fulfillment of promises and the discovery of gold in the sacred Black Hills) and the willingness of Generals like Crook and Custer to annihilate any "savage" who would not move to a reservation, a fictional story is told.
In the words of May Dodd, the black sheep daughter of a wealthy Chicago family who was in an insane asylum as a result of what her family called a perverted personality, the story is told of what might have happened if white women had been asked to marry with the native population in an effort to make peace. This is a compelling story and plays out very well against the historical facts of the years 1874-1876 in the Indian Territories of NE, WY and SD.
The sign of an amazing novel is that its content can address harsh topics such as rape, murder, infanticide and betrayal yet still be remembered fondly and soberly. It was difficult to read, true, but I could not put it down - the unfailing courage and difficult choices continued to surprise and capture me.
All the characters were highly satisfactory - none were god-like in quality but the evil were evil and the good simply humans with real, understandable faults. By focusing much of the perspective on May, the struggles between the Cheyenne and the "whites" were truly portrayed without bias. Fergus sugarcoats nothing, preferring to illustrate each civilization as fully as possible, and leave it to the reader to lay or reserve judgment.
I picked this book up without knowing what its subject matter would be - there was no summary on the back - but it immediately stole my attention, keeping me engrossed until its end.
If you choose to read this, be prepared for a heavy but extremely memorable read.
I found this book to be extremely interesting. In May Dodd's words, in referring to her wedding night to an Indian chief "Yes, I think that's a fine way of putting it. Like this whole adventure, a dream that's actually happening." May, a socialite from Chicogo, finds herself institutionalized by her family for promiscuity for marrying and having children with a man "below her status". At the same time a deal has been struck by the U.S. government to civilize the Indian population through trading 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses so that the Indian population, through having children with white women will be tamed and become civilized. May agrees to become an Indian bride to escape the horrors of the asylum. Her optimizim through it all gives us a unique insight into the Indian culture of the late 1800s. I enjoyed the book and recommend it highly.
Am I the only one who absolutely HATED this book? I would give it negative stars if possible. No surprise this was written by a man because his female protagonist is such a cliche...the rebellious, "modern" woman who is shunned by early 20th century society because she LOVES the wrong man. Not to mention the other cliched women featured in this book, including the proud black Amazon-like former slave (who becomes a proud black Amazon-like warrior among the Indian braves), and the battered and abused girl-child who thrives out West (and of course is the first to die).
This is an unbelievably, soft and fuzzy harlequin version of the American Indians. I cannot believe the men of the tribe would tolerate some of the behaviour of the white women (in one chapter, May Dodd bursts into a tentful of naked Indian males in their traditional males-only steam tent, just to show "she can"). Also, after May gives birth to a clearly Caucasian baby (she had an affair with one of the soldiers) her Indian chief husband is absurdly HAPPY??? and acts like he doesn't know he's been cuckolded.
I wish I'd passed on reading this book.
This story was interesting and easy to get into, however, I have read several other books on this locale and time period (including The Captured by Scott Zesch) and I often found parts of the white women's freedom and goddess-like treatment by the Cheyenne unrealistic. That being said, the originality of this story, the touching ending and May's strength of character and quick intelligence made this a worthwhile, memorable novel. I'm rating this down a point for the hard-to-believe passages.