A powerful and yet nuanced tale of Custer’s war against the Indians as an agent of America’s westward expansionist campaign to dominate the Continent. The battles are there, but so is Custer’s wife, Libbie, who, having led a sheltered life, must adapt to Custer’s adventurous ways and the realities of life on the campaign. Interspersed is the story of Anne, who after six years as a Cheyenne captive, is rescued by Custer’s troops, though her two ‘half-breed’ children are not. She is neither a part of the white world she returns to nor the Indian life she left. An immensely absorbing tale.
There were aspects of this book I really appreciated. Those include the unvarnished views we got of life in the Wild West for Custer the army general, for his wife Libby and for the Indian captive (Anne). It was fascinating to watch the trajectory of Custer's life from Civil War prodigy to his struggles against the Indians. He truly was larger than life and his flame was extinguished too soon. In the past these stories have often been romantically portrayed. Soli gives us the straight scoop. We look at the events and interactions with a clear windowpane and can make our own conclusions. It is good for us to read books like this and learn from the past mistakes.
Since it was historical fiction, I was disappointed in the Anne narrative. The accounts of her captivity were heartbreaking, but it is not with that part of her story that I was unhappy. It was the way her path was described as crossing that of Custer and his wife. There were accounts of Anne meeting Custer from Anne's perspective and of Anne meeting Libby from Libby's perspective. I would have loved to see their storylines be integrated in a bit more organic way. It seemed like the timelines did not match up well.
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