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Night Birds Paperback – May 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The story centers on Hazel, a young girl, whose father has taught her of the "old ways" of healing and her effect on the family. Friendly with the Indians, Hazel is later captured and becomes the wife of a young Indian brave. After the Great War, Hazel becomes reunited with part of her extended family. The story is told from the viewpoint of Asa,a young man whose life is affected by Hazel's years later. rt4
The writing in this novel is beautiful although brutal in the description of daily life on the unplowed frontier. Nature is not merely a background but an active force throughout the story. The characters of children, young mothers, soldiers, old Dakota Indians, and farmers are so clearly drawn. Life was unbelievably hard and cruel, but the human spirit although at times broken and equally as cruel can maintain a spark of belief and hope in something better. A remarkable novel of the frontier.
"Night Birds" teeter-totters between the stories of German settlers and indigenous Dakota peoples in the Midwest -- and the plagues brought by white men along with the devastation of natural hunting and fishing grounds as well as the bloody struggles between abolitist vs. pro-slavery sentiments held by differing whites. Confrontation between the groups is violent and often deadly.
Maltown's long suite in this novel lies in his descriptions of the harshness of the unconquered land -- the hunting and trapping, the decimation of animals, the killing of thousands of crows, and of sky-darkening flights of passenger pigeons, a pack of wolves dismembering their prey, freezing rains,and people falling through river ice to face terrible deaths.
The story shifts back and forth in the telling between 1859 and 1876 sometimes distracts the drama provided by immediacy as it flashes back to provide historical substance, i.e., motivational attributes to the events leading up to the present (1876).
In these pages one experiences horror, e.g., we watch as a group of Indian children stone a settler boy, see them approach the stoning with some trepidation until the first blood is drawn, then leap in to the lust of killing, continuing to stone the settler boy long after his life is gone. We see that scenario repeated many times: pro-slavery forces against abolitionist, settlers against Indians, village and teepee, town and log cabin, burning, torturing, scalping, beheading.Read more ›
I've read two of the past five Pulitzer fiction winners and found them dull and overrated and flawed, and then I read this and thought, "Night Birds is exactly what Pulitzer winners used to be like, good, compelling tales, with a rich American setting." I wish more mainstream fiction were like this.
If it has a weakness, it is relentlessly bleak, elegiac, but since there is good reason for that, I don't think it's a weakness--but I feel a need to warn readers. If you're expecting a cheerful Little House on the Prairie, this isn't that book. It's more honest.
I don't know the novelist, am not from his MFA program or any such thing, just a stranger who came across the book searching for novels written set in the 19th century. I applaud him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I absolutely loved this novel for a number of reasons. First, the history is well researched and credible. Read morePublished 14 months ago by V. Webb
Incredible and I don't use that word lightly. Every couple of pages, I had to stop and process what event had just happened. Read morePublished 19 months ago by R. Feaster
There are a few slow-going passages in this fine novel, especially and in my humble view, regarding the mysticism of the Indians, but this book involves the reader as it goes on... Read morePublished 22 months ago by William D. Brisbane
I was particularly impressed that the author told of the native American's side of the story. I was so impressed that I ordered "Little Wolves" but I didn't really like... Read morePublished on December 14, 2013 by Maple
I enjoyed this book very much. My only complaint would have to be the way each chapter jumped from one period of time to another. Read morePublished on October 20, 2013 by skb
This story is unfurled so expertly and told with such precise words ("a line of sweat snailed down my back"), I don't think any reader would guess this was a first novel. Read morePublished on October 15, 2013 by Lisa Meyers McClintick