Who wrote this book and when?
Jim Fergus wrote this book and published it in 1999.

Has there been a film version?
No.

Who are the main characters?
May Dodd – a young woman who was institutionalized by her family, who makes a deal with the government to become the wife of a Native American in order to gain freedom from the asylum
Chief Little Wolf – a chief of the Cheyenne’s, May’s husband
Captain John Bourke – an army captain in charge of delivering some of the Indian brides
Martha – one of May’s best friends
Phemie – a black Indian bride and friend of May
Bridget – a Swiss Indian bride and May’s friend
Sara – a girl traumatized in Western civilization, married to a young Indian brave
Helen – a British ornithologist who joined the BFI program to learn about birds of the Western US

What’s it about?
May Dodd has been committed to an asylum by her upper crust family because she ran away with a blue collar worker and had two children by him. When she learns of a program which will give her freedom from the asylum in exchange for marrying a Cheyenne Indian, she jumps at the opportunity. She ends up marrying the Chief of the Sweet Medicine tribe, Little Wolf. Along the way, however, she meets and falls in love with the dashing young army captain, John Bourke – who presents a soulmate in both the mind and the heart. May, who has become a leader for the other scared young women in the program, finds herself torn between a culture that has labeled her as unclean and insane and a culture which loves her and emulates peace – both of which contain men she loves. All this is set against the background of the clashes between the American Indian and the growing white American greed for gold and land.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It hit the bestseller list a few years ago, mainly because it is a fictional novel based on a small event – Little Wolf asking President Grant for 1000 white women to have as wives so as to peacefully integrate their two “tribes.”

Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, although there is quite a bit of language, sexuality, and violence.

How did this book make your list?
I saw it on a bestseller list and thought the premise sounded interesting.

Has it won any awards?
Ummm, a Regional Book Award called “From Mountains to Plains.”

Favorite quotes:
“The Captain maintains that she is simply too delicate for frontier life, but as we women well know, feigning illness is the last refuge of one who lacks imagination.” – p 59

Personal thoughts:
This book is completely engrossing – Fergus is a master storyteller. May is a person who I would probably be afraid of but love to befriend in real life. And Fergus puts together a fictional tale with such seamless interpretation that it seems like something plucked from history books. May’s journals show her journey from misunderstood inmate to adventurous explorer, to star-crossed lover, to revered mother, to desperate politician, to legend. Her friends are all so well-written that I grieved when tragedy happened and rejoiced when good things occurred. I felt an actual part of the novel – which is a primary goal of any author, I would think. Definitely worth the wait on the hold list at the RPL.

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