Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bookshelf: Jim Fergus


A few years back a coworker and I were discussing our current reads across my desk and she simply insisted that I read her book when she was through with it. The way she presented it to me didn't really hook my interest but upon opening the book I literally couldn't put it down. Few books have that affect on me, keeping me up at all hours of the night. Nicholas Sparks, Diana Gabaldon, Jo Rowling and Stephenie Meyer (yup, you read that correctly) have all put me under a spell at one point in time. Well Jim Fergus wrapped me around his little pinky and held me there to the very last page of his novel "One Thousand White Women". Weeks later I was still thinking about the book which is a telltale sign of a good read.
I love historical fiction. I always have. But what Jim Fergus does is take a piece of history and play the What If game. We've all played the game on some level: What if I had taken that job? What if I moved to New York? What if I followed in the family business? Fergus plays this game on a much grander scale and it works amazingly.
In 1854 a Cheyenne chief went to President Grant on a mission to bring peace between Native Americans and the white man. The Cheyenne's belief that a child is of his mother's tribe was the premise of the mission and so he asked President Grant to send1,000 white women west to be wed to Cheyenne men, in effect merging the two races. Fergus, being the clever man that he is, said: What if Grant had said yes and shipped 1,000 women west? It's a fantastic idea to play with but what makes this novel most appealing is the way it is written.
May Dodd, our fearless narrator, journals her life as it spins seemingly out of control as she is torn from her family and shipped off into the unknown, headed for a marriage in a foreign land to a person she does not understand.
It's been a while since I read "One Thousand White Women" but the feelings I had upon finishing the book still remain. As a writer, I am in awe of Fergus's ability to write from a female's perspective. It feels absolutely genuine and heartfelt and is a harrowing yet amazing tale. For anyone that enjoys adventure, historical fiction, love/loss, or a strong narrative - I HIGHLY recommend this book. It's a quick read, but make sure to read the author's notes at the end that discuss all the research put into writing the novel. Jim Fergus really did an outstanding job.


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