If you are anything like me, sometimes you get hooked on a subject while reading your current book and you can’t let it go upon closing the cover. Sometimes you want to know more about the real subject involved, while other times you might just want to pick up another novel about the same thing. Maybe you are even looking for other categories like film or music that might pick up on elements of something you read. Here is where Book Pairings comes in. Each installment of Book Pairings will have a theme that pairs up several books with something else that would compliment them beautifully (most often this will be other books). I’m excited to explore where this will take me!
I recently finished listening to Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (review to come this week) and there were so many things that I was fascinated by that would either be interesting for further research or that would make an awesome novel. Now it was difficult to find novels that strictly focused on the Comanche, but there are many novels that dealt with elements that this book highlighted, just with different tribes. I imagine some of these things might have been similarly experienced regardless of the tribe. So this list is some of the interesting novels that have come to my attention (commentary provided for each novel).
The first 2 novels that I am going to highlight deal with white women who were taken captive by natives and their experiences. I was interested in this based on the extensive discussions of captives, particularly that of Rachel Parker Plummer.
Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America by Amy Belding Brown
Book Blurb: She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way....
Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.
Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance.
Burning Sky by Lori Benton
Book Blurb: Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired is now grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.
When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into in her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.
Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage--the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?
The next books explore the fates of Native peoples as the American western boundary expanded further west as well as how Native peoples had to sometimes choose which world they belonged to. Both of these were very important topics in Gwynne’s book.
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
Book Blurb: An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the "wild west." Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
Lake in the Clouds by Sara Donati (Book 3 in the Wilderness series)
Book Blurb: In her extraordinary novels Into the Wilderness and Dawn on a Distant Shore, award-winning author Sara Donati deftly captured the vast, untamed wilds of late-eighteenth-century New York and the trials and triumphs of the spirited Bonner family. Now she takes on a new chapter in the life of Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner--as their brave and beautiful oldest daughter comes of age with a challenge that will change her forever. . . .
It is the spring of 1802 and the village of Paradise is still reeling from the typhoid epidemic of the previous summer. But despite a devastating personal loss, the Bonners persevere, with Hannah, Nathaniel's half-Indian daughter, working as a doctor in training. A gifted healer, this striking young woman of two worlds finds herself in peril when a dangerously ill runaway slave is discovered near the family home and Hannah insists on nursing the outlaw. Her determination places both her family and her heart in jeopardy, for a bounty hunter is afoot--and he is none other than Hannah's childhood friend and first love. So begins a journey that will test the strength of the Bonners' love for one another--and bring Hannah to face the decision she has always dreaded: will she make a life for herself in a white world, or among her mother's people?
**Note: I almost selected the first book: Into the Wilderness, but I liked the sound of this woman’s experience as being more directly related to the issue at hand.**
The last novel that I selected is an alternate fiction, based on a proposal by a Cheyenne chief to have their warriors given one thousand white woman to marry as a way to assimilate into the American culture. This offer was historically declined, but in the novel it is not. I thought this was an interested exploration of the differences in perception and understanding between the tribes and the government.
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
Book Blurb: One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
Have you read any of these or are there any titles that you know of that would fit with these recommendations? I would love to hear them!