THE SONG OF THE MEADOWLARK by John A. Sanford

THE SONG OF THE MEADOWLARK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The invented personal drama of an American Indian is interwoven with the real-life struggle for survival of the Nez Perce in this conscientious but dull first novel. Teeto Hoonod (born 1840) narrates his people's travails, which begin as they split into two groups, Christian and non-Christian, intensify as white settlers encroach on their ancestral lands in Washington's Wallows Valley, and culminate in war and migration. He also narrates his own story: loss of both parents while still a child, acquisition of a spiritual father, the medicine-man Kapoochas (and through him a spirit being, the meadowlark), his struggles to subdue his fears and prove his manhood, and his marriage to a Shoshone, soon after his revered brother marries the headstrong Rising Moon. By 1877, the peace-loving Chief Joseph is forced into war with General Howard's troops, and the outnumbered Nez Perce must begin their long trek eastward, through Yellowstone to Canada; along the way Teeto, now seething with vengeance, loses brother, wife and baby to the enemy. The climax comes near the Canadian border, where Joseph is forced to surrender, though Teeto and Rising Moon (pregnant with his second child) steal away. There is an awkwardly contrived coda, in which Teeto searches for the white soldier who had both killed his brother and spared Rising Moon; a reconciliation occurs, and there is hope of a sort, for though Moon is now dead, their child is alive. A slice of Indian history which offers ersatz lyricism and rhetorical questions, but fails absolutely to find the one thing that would have made this project worthwhile: a convincing native American voice.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row