Saturday 30 June 2018

The Vengeance of Mothers

Finished June 21
The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly and Molly McGill by Jim Fergus, read by Laura Hicks and Erik Steele

This historical novel is based on some real historical people in terms of the native leaders, such as Little Wolf and Crazy Horse. This is the second book in the series that began with One Thousand White Women. The novels are inspired by a request made during peace talks with the Cheyenne, where Little Wolf suggested the government send one thousand white women to be the brides of young Cheyenne warriors, as a way to assimilate. In the Cheyenne culture, children were automatically of the tribe of their mothers, so in their eyes, the children would be white. The request was never acted upon, but Fergus' novels take the idea of that into fruition.
Here, the survivors of an army attack on a Cheyenne village have made the journey to the camp of Crazy Horse, where they are taken in. Around the same time, a group of warriors have ambushed a train to get the horses and ammunition that were being shipped on it. Also on the train was the last batch of women sent under the Brides for Indians program, and the survivors have been brought to the camp as well.
Margaret and Susie Kelly, survivors of the attack on the village are asked to talk to the women from the train and explain the current situation, and the cancellation of the Brides program, and offer them choices. The majority of women from the train volunteered for the program to escape a worse situation and have no wish to return to that situation. As we learn about the women, we learn about their histories, from incarceration, to mental institutions, widowhood to brothels and domestic abuse, the women are all willing to try to assimilate to the native culture.
As in the first novel in the series, the women have been given account ledgers, which a couple of them use as diaries. One of them is Margaret Kelly, who writes for both herself and her twin sister Susie. The other is Molly McGill, one of the women from the train, who worked as a teacher until her recent incarceration.
The journals are brought to the attention of a newspaper editor in the present day, and he sorts them by date, and transcribes them, moving alternately between the two memoirists as they pass through the remaining winter and into the spring of 1876. This is the frame of the story, but the story itself, told as diary entries is full of emotion, detail, and description.
The characters are drawn well, and with respectful acknowledgement of native culture and the unfair treatment by the US government. We really see life in the native encampments and the nature of the battles between the government forces, their allied native partners, and the tribes they warred with.
A wonderful story.

No comments:

Post a Comment