41mmmwV02TL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_This novel tells of a young white man’s experience during the 1855-1856 Yakima War in the Pacific Northwest. The protagonist is Andrew Eaton, who works as a translator between American politicians, the U.S military commanders, and the Indians, thus he is traveling with important people and getting in on all that is happening.

Andrew has learned the Indian language from his friendship with a beautiful Indian girl named Lalooh who ultimately does some translating too, since she has learned passable English from Andrew. However, throughout the story she stays with her family and as the story unfolds, she and Andrew only catch glimpses of one another.

Some background leading to this story, while only touched upon here, is the true debacle of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman who, ten years earlier before this story begins, had been brutally massacred along with twelve other white persons at their Mission in the Waiilatpu in what is now Oregon. Marcus was an American pioneer, doctor, and missionary among the Indians. Narcissa was one of the first white women to cross the continent. Their deaths occurred November 29, 1847. It is believed the Indians Marcus was trying to convert to Christianity became suspicious and enraged when a number of Indian children died in a measles epidemic and the Indians thought the Whitmans had poisoned them. Not until several white children died did the Indians understand the situation, but by then it was too late.

Now, ten years after the Whitmans’ deaths, there is continued feuding between the U.S. government, the various Indian tribes and white religious groups. Young Andrew finds himself caught in the desperate struggle between all these people as the Indian Wars in the Northwest finally grind to a close. Indian reservations are being established while leaders of the various tribes struggle between themselves as well as the new white government. Many misunderstandings, deep personal hatreds, loss of life and old traditional ways all come to a tumultuous clash by the end of the story.

Meanwhile, Andrew is in love with Lalooh and probably she has feelings for him too, but the situation is far too desperate and emotionally-charged for these two young people to resolve their differences and live happily ever after. Lalooh is faithful to her own people, even though she is roughly treated by an Indian who takes her for his wife. Andrew must watch and record while translating, and becomes embroiled in all the brutality on both sides. Andrew travels with his own people, while always on the lookout for Lalooh. His hared for the white governor becomes deeply entrenched in his feelings as he is caught between his job as translator and what is happening to the Indians.

Author Richie Swanson spent nearly thirty years beginning in 1977 exploring Indian reservations in the Northwest and researching the People’s long traditions. He writes with carefully crafted original detail, painting word pictures that sometimes cause the reader to flinch. Swanson’s writing is bold and unforgiving, some battle scenes are painfully revealing. The surprise, the sudden and fearful attacks and their aftermath remind us of all our years of human tragedy, war after war. Swanson’s writing goes deeper than an easy to read novel, he teaches truth along with entertainment. He really drives home what a gutsy, well-schooled novelist can do when endeavoring to rise above the average story-teller. Get your copy HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous published books about the Old West, including the novel Widow’s Peak, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988. Www.silklabelbooks.com

Filed under: Old West Book Reviews

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