Like Hudson's fine first book, Sweetgrass (1989), a story about a Blackfoot girl on the verge of coming of age, at the pivotal time when Native American culture was being changed forever by the experience of white men. There is just one horse in Kit Fox's village, and no one knows how to ride it. With the reluctant acquiesence of her friend Found Arrow, whose job it is to watch over the horse, Kit Fox secretly gentles it and teaches it to accept her. The Blackfeet don't have horses, but during the book they learn about guns from their Cree allies; when their enemies the Snakes, who do have horses, suddenly attack, Kit Fox is able to save her people by riding to the Cree for aid. Again, Hudson—backed by careful research, as indicated in an extensive bibliography—re-creates the life of this long-ago culture with telling detail and lyrical grace. Even minor characters have depth: Kit Fox fears, with good reason, that the warrior who woos her beloved sister has a cruel streak, but he turns out to be unexpectedly gentle; the relationship between Kit Fox's grandmother and her "co-wife" is warm, revealing, and beautifully drawn. Hudson raises several issues—especially the introduction of guns—implicitly through sensitively written incidents (e.g., the poignantly restrained family farewells before a battle). In the light of history, Kit Fox's hope for prosperity and peace as a result of the new weapons is painfully ironic; Hudson wisely leaves readers to make the connections. A beautifully crafted, thought-provoking novel.
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