2018 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson

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I first fell in love with this book when I was around 14, which honestly was probably too a little too young to be reading this book…LOL. It probably held the title of favorite book for many years and is still in my top five. I’ve been meaning to re-read it for several years and finally managed to work it in to my schedule. I was determined not to skip ahead or to just read the parts I knew I felt like reading – I was going to re-read the book in its entirety this time.

It was somewhat different than I remember. The last time I read it had to be probably over ten years ago and I know I skipped through a lot of it. The premise for the story is the life of Cynthia Ann Parker, a young girl captured by the Comanche and raised among them, eventually marrying a great chief and raising several children before being recaptured by her family. As a historical fiction, there is some creative license taken and her life among the Comanche pieced together by old passed down stories, history, research and imagination. The author builds a very real and believable life for the young girl and what it may have been like for her among the Comanche. I doubt it is how it actually happened, but that is not the point of historical fiction. What I had forgotten about, was how many secondary and even tertiary story lines are wound throughout the book. There are sections that follow the girl’s family, a US Marshall, a squad of rangers, other members of her tribe, and even from the perspective of an Indian chief of an enemy tribe.  It sounds hard to follow, but the author wove it so seamlessly together it is not a problem. You get a whole variety of views, beliefs, events, and interactions from the time frame and what life was really like. Some of it is particularly brutal, some heart-breakingly sad, some joyful, and others just brutally honest everyday life.

You learn a lot about the time frame, Comanche life, Comanche politics, the fighting against the Indians, political moves and promise breaking in Indian politics, and the views and beliefs of several different types of people at the time. I find it a difficult, but rewarding read, even though it ends sadly. All the characters are relateable, reminding you of someone. The story line is easy to follow and makes sense. The events make you emotionally invested in the book and the characters. With getting to see both sides of the time frame, it can be difficult to hate the various characters in the book.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Native American life, western history, classical fiction, or a historical story with a small romance in it. The romance is not explicit at all and is only alluded to once. Mostly it is just a heavily emotional book with characters who are extremely well-developed, a story line that builds strongly, and a book that will make you remember what was in it.

My rating:

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2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Pretty-Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows by Frank B. Linderman

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I love reading about American Indian history, particularly historical fiction or memoir told by or about women. I’m surprised that I have not come across this book earlier.

The story is basically a series of interviews that the author had with Pretty-shield. He even tells you right there in the book and he goes on to describe each interview in detail to recount what she has told him. This is not a biography, but rather an outsider-lead memoir. During each interview Frank prompts a topic or Pretty-shield comes in with a story she remembered and wants to share with him. You get the feel for the reservation school house they are using and snippets about life for Pretty-shield at the reservation. However, the bulk of the information comes from the various stories Pretty-shield conveys to Frank through sign talk and an interpreter. The topics vary greatly and don’t follow any particular order. You learn about women’s jobs in the Crow nation, various ceremonies, cultural fears and beliefs, daily routines, buffalo hunts, marriage ceremonies, the importance of war between the tribes, mourning, family relationships, traditions, and even about the the Crows joining with General Custer and fighting with him at the Little Bighorn. There is a wealth of information in this relatively short book, conveyed by a very enthusiastic and likable woman. I wasn’t a big fan of the interview format or the disjointed story telling, but you did learn a lot. I think if he would have taken her stories and put them in chronological order it would have been a little better. However, he was staying true to his craft and intended to portray his information and source in the most authentic way possible.  You really got a feeling for the type of woman Pretty-shield was and got a strong sense of her personality and sense of humor. She is a fascinating woman and really brings to life the Crow nation and its lost lifestyle. I’m surprised there aren’t any historical fiction books based around her life and stories.

If you are at all interested in American Indian history, way of life, or an interesting woman, I would highly recommend this book for you. Like I said, you have to expect to read it as an interview and not really a story. She tells different tales within each chapter and varies between present day and when she was younger. You learn a mass amount of information about the Crows and their lifestyle and get a deeper understanding of their culture and belief system. I can’t say I’ll probably read it again, but I am definitely glad I read it now.

My rating:

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2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake

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This is one of those times where I watched the movie before reading the book. I absolutely loved the Dances with Wolves movie. I never actually knew it was based on a book until a few weeks ago. when I found that out I ordered it and started to read it the day after it came (I didn’t have time in the actual day it came to start LOL). I was not disappointed by the book at all. I actually have to remark that I was impressed with how well the movie followed the book. There was very little left out and the few things they added in the movie helped to add to the story rather than distance itself from the book.

The story follows Lieutenant John Dunbar as he is assigned to a fort in the middle of the Indian frontier. seven he arrives, the fort is abandoned and he is the only soldier. He begins to complete tasks and waits for more soldiers to arrive, all while finding a peace living alone in the frontier and making friends with the animals he shares space with. You learn about his past in the civil war and his attitude toward the world and its inhabitants. He inevitably encounters Indians, Comanche, and talked the first steps in learning their culture. Little by little he is drawn deeper and deeper into their culture, particularly with the help of a white woman who was adopted by the tribe as a child. You learn her story as well over time. The story comes to climactic ending after the arrival of new soldier at the fort.

I was greatly impressed with the depth of the main character. You get pieces of thoughts from other characters scattered throughout but you primarily focus on the thoughts and actions of the lieutenant. Through his eyes your learn of a new culture and way of living. You learn about personal peace and evaluate how you see the world. You gain a respect for living of the land and see beauty in nature. But must of all it opens your eyes to the destruction one race can have on the world, how one person can set of a chair reaction of catastrophic or wonderful events and how each individual action crates ripples that shape our lives. The story isn’t action packed, but it moves steadily on with new ideas and events and revelations within the characters that keep you engrossed in the story and lets you continue to think about the story after you’ve put it down for the night or when you had to go to work. If I could have I would have read the book in one sitting. However, I was not able to but am thankful I had the in-between time to think about what I read and how I can relate to it or what it means to the world.

I’m surprised this book is not recommended reading in high school or college. It paints a beautiful picture of Comanche life and the impact white civilization had early on in their movement west. It also gives insights into sitting others, self evaluation, and how to view the world. I recommend this book to everyone. I’m very interested in reading the sequel to this book as well, The Holy Road.

My rating:

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