A paint horse spends her life with several different owners on
the Great Plains of the late 1800s.
An orphaned foal, the paint is raised by a young Lakota boy and trained to hunt buffalo. When white soldiers raid the Lakota camp, the mare escapes and is caught by a white man, who also uses her to hunt buffalo. When the buffalo are gone, the man sells her to a homesteader hoping to raise cattle. After drought and harsh winters devastate his operation, the mare, now aged, ends up with a new homesteading family in western Canada. None of this is glossed over; animals die, often unpleasantly. Dance has done extensive research, which unfortunately impedes her story—or stories, as the novel suffers extremely from its lack of focus, jumping from episode to episode, narrator to narrator, and issue to issue without resolution or clarity. Readers will be frustrated by the almost-ending, in which the horse may be lost in a dust storm that may have destroyed a family's livelihood, or not. Concluding notes provide background on terminology, wild horses and homesteaders, and a timeline places the fictional events in context of history, much of it concerning atrocities and hardships suffered by Native Americans.
Next time, Dance should focus on a single agenda or, better yet, tell a single story. (Historical fiction. 10-14)