BEYOND THE STARS by David William Ross


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A great, grasping Western that locates a handful of white men, intent on the fulfillment of individual destinies, among the Plains Indians in the 1870's, the last years of their freedom before death or the reservations claimed them. First-novelist Ross casts a wide net here, trying to give a comprehensive view of the clash of cultures through the stories of four determined men--three white, one Crow--who band together as fellow travelers through hostile Sioux country, even though their goals and interests are at odds. AndrÉ Marcher and his half-brother Ben Amiel have set out from the East to find the map in an uncle's prairie grave that will lead them to a fabulous gold mine. White River, a son of murdered pioneers brought up by Indians, signs on as their guide (though his heart isn't in it); and Ironfoot meets up with them en route, a Crow chief also searching for a grave, his son's, in the midst of his Sioux enemies. Ironfoot's invitation enables the others to settle among the Crow as honored guests while they continue their quest, and a protracted and much-interrupted search ensues, during which Marcher turns native, earning the respect of Crow warriors and the revulsion of brother Amiel by becoming handy with a hatchet and savage in a fight. Meanwhile, Amiel finds himself increasingly pacifistic and miserable as their situation becomes desperate because of mounting hostilities between the tribes, although the grave is finally found. After a number of forays into dangerous territory, estranged from both his Indian hosts and his white companions, Marcher finds the gold, but the happiness of that discovery is denied him. Tension between the impressive, sympathetic treatment of Indian ways, on the one hand, and the elaborate, overwrought passions of the whites, on the other, causes rifts in the texture of this tale, as the melodramatic weight of the inner conflicts--and their predictability--creates a ponderous and unwieldy saga. An overextended story, then, but still attractive, doing better by the Indians and their communal life-style than by the alienated, tormented individuals who have the major roles. Powerful, knowledgeable, but flawed.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Simon & Schuster