THE WOMAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY by Barbara Riefe

THE WOMAN WHO FELL FROM THE SKY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ultimately unsatisfying historical fiction with some interesting moments. In her hardcover debut, Riefe, who claims to be of Mohican ancestry, plumbs the history of the five Indian nations that composed the Iroquois Confederacy. The grouping became a central player and pawn in the protracted struggle between the French and English for control of North America. Their alliance with the latter may have been decisive in the outcome of the so-called French and Indian Wars, which sealed the fate of New France. Into this situation of warfare and intrigue sails (literally) Margaret Addison Lacroix, an English aristocrat who has been married by proxy to a French officer serving in Quebec. She is journeying up the Hudson when her ship becomes grounded on a sandbar. A sitting duck, the vessel is attacked by Mohawks. All are killed and the ship is set ablaze. Only Margaret narrowly manages to escape. She is found and rescued by Two Eagles, war chief of the Oneidas, who thinks she is Ataentsic, the woman who, according to legend, fell from the sky and is credited with creating the earth. As the two (along with other members of Two Eagles's party) journey deeper into Indian country, the Native's civilized and human demeanor is contrasted sharply with that of Margaret's husband, a debauching, cheating, murdering drunkard. Eventually delivered to Quebec and to Governor-General Frontenac (a real-life personage whose Treaty of Ryswik put a temporary stop to the wars during the period in which this novel is set), Margaret finds out, to her ultimate relief, that Lacroix has not married her by proxy and, lacking mutuality, the union is void. Lacroix is imprisoned and Margaret is left with no doubt that it is not the Indians who are savages here in the Americas. Well-researched and generally a brisk read, the novel still comes up short, curiously lacking resonance to compel the reader.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Forge -- dist. by St. Martin's