Nonfiction author Osborne (The Price of Government, 2004, etc.) has written a historical novel beginning with the Lewis and Clark expedition and ending with the decimation of the Nez Perce tribe.
As the company crosses the Rockies and encounters the Nez Perce, William Clark is the focus. The Nez Perce welcomed and aided the white Americans, and Clark was especially popular. He admired the tribe; Lewis thought them "savages." Clark became fascinated with a woman named Swan Lighting who bore him a son, Daytime Smoke, after he left her behind, and Daytime Smoke becomes the focus of the story as white incursion into Native American territory increases. Osborne shows a considered empathy as he describes tribal life. At first, as the tribe meets white trappers and mountain men, there’s minimal conflict. Wanting to learn more from whites, the tribe welcomes missionaries—Sent Ones—but soon they find whites rigid and rapacious. Coexistence becomes impossible. Osborne brings historical characters to life and superbly individualizes numerous Nez Perce, some resisting white incursions, some wanting peace. The early narrative has a Garden of Eden innocence, but the latter portion—equally well-researched and rich in historical detail—becomes a depressing litany of white aggression and dark betrayal, especially as the Nez Perce are driven from their lands and attempt to link up with Sitting Bull in Canada. The pace never slackens as the Nez Perce succumb to the avarice and racial prejudice that stained the early industrial age.
An epic story sure to be a hit with readers interested in the American western expansion.