THE THIRTY-NINTH MAN by D.A.  Swanson

THE THIRTY-NINTH MAN

A Novel of the 1862 Uprising
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut historical novel details the events that led to the Dakota War in the 19th-century Midwest.

Swanson begins his tale as a Native American surrenders his daughter to a white fur trader as bounty on a lost wager. About nine months later, the “half-breed” Annawon “Anton” McAllister is born to the forfeited daughter. Anton is raised by his mother, who teaches him many of her Algonquin ways, including hunting and tracking. His mother dies when he is still young, and he must make his own way. As he matures, he straddles the worlds of whites and Native Americans. He works for many years as chief hunter and scout for the Army, growing close with some of its members, visiting trading posts, and learning the ways of local fur traders. In Anton’s young adulthood, a friend named Tomawka, a Native American, is killed by a wolf. Anton feels responsible for the man’s wife, Star Woman, and the couple’s infant son.  Quickly becoming attached to the widow and child, Anton resolves to settle with them and forge a new family. Meanwhile, tension builds between the Dakota (part of the Great Sioux Nation) and the American government. In his engaging story, Swanson shows the U.S. repeatedly failing to honor treaties it has with the Dakota. As the Dakota lose land and concomitant hunting rights, hunger ensues, followed by increased violence. The author graphically depicts the bloodshed and hostilities that result as the Dakota take their revenge on white settlers. This lengthy and well-researched tale is so specific that it often reads more like a historical account than a novel, providing comprehensive exposition on one topic after another. Chock full of details about the Midwestern territories, the different Native American tribes inhabiting the region, land disputes, cultural differences, and methods of fighting, the book delivers an engrossing education for readers seeking to learn about this period.

An unforgiving look at the battles between the white settlers of the mid-1800s and the Dakota, offering an illuminating perspective on Native American history.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-9863267-1-4
Page count: 254pp
Publisher: Rainy River Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2017