Was going to comment and then read Hecto's review from a few months back. I second his/her review. Jiles is a wonderful writer and I needed to skip some paragraphs and even whole pages b/c I didn't want to read descriptions of atrocities
This is the prequel to 'News of the World', and it displays the same outstanding qualities of the latter book: the author's exceptional ability to describe the natural world and the material culture of both Indian peoples and white settlers along the Texas frontier. As with 'News', the well-crafted story focuses on the recovery and return of white captives; but the message here is clearer and broader. We are made witness to a collision of civilizations that no 'enlightened policy' can prevent from running its inevitable course. The Kiowa and Comanche are going to go down fighting for their way of life because it is the right thing for them to do - indeed the only thing. In the author's sure hand these men and women are brave , joyful, clever, generous - but also gratuitously violent and cruel, with little capacity for empathy. The balance that she strikes in character description is really admirable. These are flesh-and-blood Indians, not Rousseauian children of Nature. Yes, they have been dispossessed by the whites, who are guilty of mass violence as well - something that Jiles makes abundantly clear throughout her narrative. But her ability to portray this clash as a 'fateful' encounter, a true tragedy, is what makes this a superior book - and a darn good read as well.
Well written story based on actual references to events in the life of Britt Johnson, a freed slave who brought his wife and 3 children to Elm Creek, Texas in 1863. This is the story of the ongoing battle between the settlers who pushed into Indian Territory and the clash of cultures as the Indians continued their long standing tradition of nomadic life, raids for horses and slaves and brutal treatment of those they chose not to enslave.
It's probably worth more stars but I can't read something that I think is going to have murder and mayhem in it. It started off beautifully, but the dark clouds started forming and I was out.
Yeah, wimpish, but nowadays I want to read something that won't throw me into despair.
Jiles fictional account of real-life Britt Johnson’s efforts at restitution of family and neighbors kidnapped by raiding Cheyenne and Kiowa in post-Civil War Texas is fascinating.
I liked that her characters were realistic and not stereotypes. Britt Johnson’s efforts to run his business and Samuel Hammond’s efforts as the Quaker Indian agent added authenticity and pathos to this tale. Good historical fiction.
Hauntingly beautiful and suspenseful.
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