Jenkins’ debut novel tells the riveting Civil War saga of Ethan Fraser, a half-white, half-Sioux teenager who journeys from his Illinois home to Civil War battlegrounds to imprisonment in Confederate prisoner camps, all in a quest to understand his Native American roots.
Readers join Ethan near the beginning of the Civil War–he joins the 36th Illinois after one of his older brothers is killed, eventually becoming a courier for a Northern spy. Readers follow him on a daring escape from captivity behind enemy lines to his recapture and imprisonment in Alabama’s horrific Cahaba Prison. When a prison transfer to Mobile, Ala., offers an opportunity for escape, Ethan is once again off and running, ending up in the home of Elizabeth Magrath, a well-to-do widow of Northern heritage. Before long, Ethan and the widow fall in what passes for love in wartime, but the hero isn’t content to wait out the war in hiding. With Elizabeth’s aid he returns to the Union, only to be court-martialed for desertion and espionage. When a racist jury sentences him to death, Ethan escapes once again, this time determined to find his mother’s people in the Great Plains. He is taken in by a band of Cheyenne who teach him their ways, and learns firsthand the atrocities of so-called â€œcivilized” white men. Ethan struggles to reconcile his two heritages, and eventually negotiates his own peace–one that adheres completely to neither the white nor the Native ways. Jenkins crafts a fascinating tale, painstakingly researched and richly detailed. Part potboiler, part historical fiction, readers won’t be able to put it down until the final page.
An excellent novel–readers will want more.