"Blue Horse Dreaming"
(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie MAR 27, 2005)
"I will not live among you."
Abigail Buwell sits by her blue roan and thinks: "I could have said this, that I was born, truly born, under a sky of shooting stars, beside a herd of grazing horses wearing moonlight on their coats. That the air smelled of water and juniper, and that I was born like this, whole. That I had lived only for some four years: that was the span of my true life."
Totally against her will, Abigail Buwell was "redeemed" from Indian captivity by an abusive brother-in-law whom she feared and hated. Her lawfully wedded husband - in name only - had died four years before, on the day she was captured. Her brother-in-law traded three Indian braves for her and another woman - only the other glad to be rejoining "civilization." At almost nine months pregnant, Abigail is forced to leave behind the only family she had ever really known: her young first child, a man who cared for her, and the People. While the other woman hated her captors and simply endured, Abigail found kindness, love and laughter for the first time in her young life. She left the tribe with the child in her womb, her magnificent blue roan, and the name given to her by the Indians, "She-Who-Was-Dreamed-By-The Blue-Horse."
US Military Outpost 2881 stood at the furthest edge of the frontier under the command of Major Robert Cutter, a Civil War veteran. There upon the barren, desolate plains, guarding a hostile somber-colored space, dwelled a contingent of military men, two women - the doctor's sick wife and the washerwoman, Maria - and a greedy sutler. It was to this place that Abigail Buwell was brought, and where she said, "I will not live among you." Major Cutter was the only one who heard. She didn't speak again.
Seemingly forgotten by mankind, and perhaps by God, the fort had been rife with illness. The Quartermaster and many others had died during an epidemic of meningitis. Almost all the food and fresh water were gone and no supply wagons in sight. There had been insubordination and desertion in the ranks. The men were in a stupor, unshaven, filthy, infested with vermin - shadows of their former selves. And the major, who had never fully recovered from the war, was unable to take control and improve conditions, if that were a possibility. Cutter had totally fallen apart - alienated, isolated, living in his own grim inner world, inhabited by ghosts, unable to cope with the even darker realities of the outpost. Among his papers was found, much later, a disturbing list he devised of "Good" and "Evil" - a telling example of his state of mind. He felt a kinship to Abigail, but her silence, emotional withdrawal and open hostility, pushed him further into himself and provoked hallucinations. He knew that neither of them had a future. The soldiers were immediately suspicious of Abigail, especially when her fellow hostage, the other woman who had been rescued, called her a "savage." Violence threatened to break out. Mutiny was in the air, but the men were too weak to act - for the moment
Melanie Wallace's insights into the human heart are astute, powerful and cut to the soul. Her well crafted narrative paints a bleak and brutal picture of post-Civil War life on the remote frontier. The landscapes of the Great Plains are fantastical, nightmarish. Ms. Wallace's language is, quite simply, beautiful. Her descriptions of people, their thoughts, and dialogue linger long after one puts the book down. The secondary characters and their dilemmas are striking, especially Cole, the black smithy, who is almost as isolated as Abigail. He offered comfort without being intrusive. And Reed Gabriel, the journalist who came looking for a story and discovered something else. This is a remarkable and intense novel which I highly recommend. Extraordinary writing from an amazingly talented author - first novel too!
- Amazon readers rating: from 6 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Curled Up interview with Melanie Wallace
- Curled Up review of Blue Horse Dreaming
- New York Times review of Blue Horse Dreaming
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About the Author:
Melanie Wallace lives with her husband in Myloi, an agrarian village nestled below teh Chi mountain range in Souther Evia, Greece and in Manhattan.