Official Review: Crossing at Sweet Grass

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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CommMayo
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Official Review: Crossing at Sweet Grass

Post by CommMayo » 04 Jan 2018, 19:24

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Crossing at Sweet Grass" by Laurie G Robertson.]
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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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Post by inaramid » 06 Jan 2018, 10:30

The first thing I noticed was that the cover seemed incongruous to the book's content. I wouldn't have guessed that this was historical fiction, or that it contained something as substantial as what you've described in your review. I do like that there was a ton of research evident in the narrative, but I'm getting a Stockholm syndrome alarm here. Doesn't the captive-captor relationship between the characters present a glorified view of this syndrome?

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Post by kandscreeley » 06 Jan 2018, 11:06

I loved the game Oregon trail. I enjoy reading about it sometimes, too. The maturity in the writing well probably come with time. This one still sounds enjoyable despite that. Thanks for the review.
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Post by CommMayo » 06 Jan 2018, 11:54

inaramid wrote:
06 Jan 2018, 10:30
I do like that there was a ton of research evident in the narrative, but I'm getting a Stockholm syndrome alarm here. Doesn't the captive-captor relationship between the characters present a glorified view of this syndrome?
I like to think of it more in the terms of Insta-love...almost a requirement for the bulk of romance novels out there. And yes, it drives me nuts.

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Post by Kat Berg » 06 Jan 2018, 12:37

This...I don't think I could read this book. Partly because for the time being at least, if I am going to read something about the indigenous population, I want it to be from a First People's perspective. That really is just a personal preference though, and not a reflection on your review :). Thanks for the review.

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Post by Dolor » 06 Jan 2018, 15:57

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.
OMG! Why didn't you give a 4 star rating? Don't be stingy. Give her a side of bargain. Don't inspect her work, just like bacteria under the microscope. ^_^

Thanks for the impressive review.

I'll be passing my first paid review tomorrow morning if I could have free time.

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Post by N_R » 07 Jan 2018, 03:56

Thanks for the review - this sounds like a very interesting book. It was a very difficult time in history so I think it would be an interesting subject matter. It sounds like there are some negative aspects to this read but I am going to add it to my 'want to read' shelf.

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Post by Roggyrus » 07 Jan 2018, 08:59

This is an interesting review, CommMayo. You have made a comprehensive coverage of the book's contents and made me feel considerably informed of what to expect when I get to read the book myself. Although I may not have a good basis regards authenticity of the native Indian customs, still the depiction would appear interesting, for whatever it would offer. Thanks for your review.

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Post by CommMayo » 07 Jan 2018, 11:39

Kat Berg wrote:
06 Jan 2018, 12:37
This...I don't think I could read this book. Partly because for the time being at least, if I am going to read something about the indigenous population, I want it to be from a First People's perspective. That really is just a personal preference though, and not a reflection on your review :). Thanks for the review.
May I suggest picking up any book by Sherman Alexie. It is contemporary Native American literature, but gives you a great insider's view of the current struggles of the culture with an appropriate amount of mysticism blended in.

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Post by Kat Berg » 07 Jan 2018, 18:49

CommMayo wrote:
07 Jan 2018, 11:39
Kat Berg wrote:
06 Jan 2018, 12:37
This...I don't think I could read this book. Partly because for the time being at least, if I am going to read something about the indigenous population, I want it to be from a First People's perspective. That really is just a personal preference though, and not a reflection on your review :). Thanks for the review.
May I suggest picking up any book by Sherman Alexie. It is contemporary Native American literature, but gives you a great insider's view of the current struggles of the culture with an appropriate amount of mysticism blended in.
Thanks very much for the suggestion. I am writing the author's name down! :) :tiphat:

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Post by Lincolnshirelass » 08 Jan 2018, 06:02

Kat Berg wrote:
06 Jan 2018, 12:37
This...I don't think I could read this book. Partly because for the time being at least, if I am going to read something about the indigenous population, I want it to be from a First People's perspective. That really is just a personal preference though, and not a reflection on your review :). Thanks for the review.
I can see where you're coming from, and don't disagree with you, but are we to say that no person should ever write a book about another culture or race from their own? What I will say is, that if anyone chooses to do that they have an especial duty to research thoroughly and respectfully. Loved the review.
An Eye for an Eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Mahatma Gandhi

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Post by CommMayo » 08 Jan 2018, 13:01

@Lincolnshirelass
I can see both sides of the argument. I appreciate Kay Bergs desire to cut her teeth on a less contrived account of Native American life. I think there are plenty of Anglo authors who do a great job of representing the culture (James Mitchner's Chesapeake for example), but a historical romance probably isn't the best introduction. But I will say that this book is better than 99% of "Indian" romance novels.

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Post by Miriam Molina » 11 Jan 2018, 01:20

And here I was expecting a flower-power book and smelling sweet Maryjane from that cover.

I am curious about the contrast between what happens to Kallie and Elizabeth. I'd like to see how each comes out after.

I'm also eager to learn more about the Native Americans. Strong Heart and 450 East showed me some. This would be a welcome addition to my Indian education.

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Post by CommMayo » 12 Jan 2018, 16:51

Miriam Molina wrote:
11 Jan 2018, 01:20
And here I was expecting a flower-power book and smelling sweet Maryjane from that cover.
I was thinking the same thing because of the cover! Great minds and all...

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Post by SPasciuti » 13 Jan 2018, 02:30

I definitely find myself with conflicted feelings about this book after reading your review, mainly due to the treatment of Kallie's sister in law. I'll of course give the benefit of the doubt and assume it is historically accurate as something to happen to captives, but goodness it just makes me cringe. Aside from that, this sounds like a rather fun story--though of course it's the cheif's son who takes a liking to her, haha--to read. I'm glad to hear that the author did a respectable amount of research for it. Thanks for reviewing!

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