Have you ever read a book and right from the first few chapters, thought to yourself, "This would make a great movie"? Such were my thoughts when reading One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. Although this novel is fiction, it is based on an actual event in American history. In 1854, at a peace conference, Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf asked the US army authorities/American government for the gift of 1000 white women in exchange for 1000 horses. The white women would be brides for his warriors; their presence with the Cheyenne and the children born from these unions would help with their assimilation into white society. This request was, in fact, turned down and the peace talks collapsed, but this novel proceeds as if the "Brides for Indians" program actually went forward.
The story is told in the form of journal entries written by May Dodd, a young woman from a wealthy Chicago family. She had fallen in love with a "common man beneath her station" and bore two children to him out of wedlock. For this her father had her committed to an insane asylum, so when the opportunity came along to "obtain her freedom" by volunteering to be part of the Brides for Indians program, May jumped at the chance. She journeys west with a number of other "colorful" women to live on the plains with the Cheyenne. What follows is an amazing story of love, romance, humour, violence, sex, racism, politics... you name it, this book has it! Above all, it is realistic- you have to keep reminding yourself it is fictional. The characters are so well written, so well "developed", you quickly find yourself totally engrossed in their "adventure". You will laugh, you will cry, you will find yourself enraged at the way the natives were tricked and cheated. Fergus has done a masterful job of researching and weaving a tale that you will not want to end. This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read this year. Don't start it until you have a good chunk of time to devote to it, because you will not want to stop reading....
5 stars from this booklover.
"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home." ~ Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life