A powerful mosaic of voices combine, in poet and storywriter (Trigger Dance, 1990, etc.) Glancy's first novel, to create a haunting portrait of the Trail of Tears. In 1838, some 13,000 Cherokee Indians were driven at bayonet point from their fertile lands (coveted by white settlers) in several southern states, and compelled to march almost a thousand miles to the Oklahoma Territory, ``toward darkness, toward death,'' forced to leave everything behind. Perhaps a quarter of the tribe (principally the elderly, women, and children) died along the way. Glancy, interweaving first-person narratives by a number of figures, most of them Cherokees, captures the horror of the forced march, much of it made during winter, and the mingled bafflement, anger, despair, and resignation of the Cherokee (who had swiftly adopted farming and European dress, had developed their own written language, and in many cases embraced Christianity). Two voices stand out from the chorus: that of Maritole, a young woman who loses most of her family, including an infant, along the march, and who gradually discovers a stubborn determination within herself to survive; and that of her proud, distant husband Knobowtee, struggling to retain some sense of self. The Cherokee, forced to depart with only the clothes on their backs, suffered horribly in the cold. Those attempting to escape were shackled or shot by the troops guarding them. And while curious whites gathered along the route to watch the tribe pass, few offered food, or blankets, or shelter. ``They called us savages,'' Maritole says of those who watch. ``Then it was all right to drive us from our land. Then it was all right to sit along the road and watch the spectacle of our march.'' Those who reached Oklahoma were abandoned without shelter or supplies. The voices that comprise the narrative are vigorous, and the period details convincing but not obtrusive. A distinctly original and haunting work of historical fiction.
Read full book review >