3 out of 4 stars
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Crossing at Sweet Grass by Laurie G. Robertson is the fictional account of an Indian raid on a family traveling the Oregon Trail, told primarily from the point of view of the abductee and her abductor. Kallie is traveling by wagon with her new husband and his brother and sister-in-law when they are attacked by a band of Indian warriors. The men are quickly killed and the women, Kallie and Elizabeth, are taken as captives. Kallie finds a degree of safety after catching the eye of Brave Eagle, leader of the band of warriors and son to the Chief of their tribe; unfortunately, Elizabeth is not afforded much protection and is swiftly passed around the group of warriors.
Kallie and Brave Eagle come to terms with each other and have a whirlwind affair as the band travels back to Brave Eagle’s village. The result of the affair and the pending betrothal of Brave Eagle cause a myriad of complications when the party arrives back at their village. Despite hardships, Kallie works to adjust to village life while her sister-in-law, Elizabeth, spends her days conniving and plotting her escape.
It is quickly evident to the reader that Robertson spent a lot of time doing quality research to support her historical novel. She includes a lot of little details about the landscape, vegetation, and even constellations present around the village. Her depiction of how the tribe lived, migrated, hunted, and ate is very authentic and sets this novel apart from the myriad of other Native American historical romances. It is also very apparent that she had a top notch editor, as there were virtually no spelling or grammatical errors throughout the novel.
As the bulk of the story is told through Kallie, much of the novel consists of her internal monologue, of which there is a lot since she doesn’t speak the language of her captors. When there is dialogue in the book, it can appear a bit stilted or unnatural. The reader can attribute it to language barriers present in the storyline or to this being Robertson’s first novel. Sometimes the story could be a bit confusing, leaving the reader wondering why certain characters or details are mentioned. Midway through the book, Kallie is left alone at the village with a women, “who Kallie knew, was her enemy.” Three paragraphs later, Kallie is talking about how free she feels in the village because, “There was no one to avoid.”
Due to the interesting subject matter and the excellent editing, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The storyline is engaging and it gave the reader a great view into the world of the American frontier during a very tumultuous time in history. Sometimes if felt as if the author missed the mark on depicting authentic Native American culture and fell back on less than flattering stereotypes. While Robertson’s writing style lacks the depth and maturity of more established authors, she did a very good job of incorporating the difficult yet central subjects of rape and violence in a sensitive and non-gratuitous manner. Crossing at Sweet Grass is technically classified as historical romance; however, anyone who is interested in frontier or Native American history would find this to be an enjoyable read.
Crossing at Sweet Grass
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