Beneath the Same Stars

Written by Phyllis Cole-Dai
Review by J. Lynn Else

On August 18, 1862, Native Americans fed up with empty promises from the Great Father in Washington revolt. During the attacks, Sarah and her two children are taken captive by Caske. He remembers Sarah from prior encounters and stakes his life on protecting her. Under constant threat of death from the rest of the tribe, Sarah must learn to trust Caske if she has any hope of surviving. But can she provide the same to him and his family when Union soldiers march toward the Sioux camps?

Cole-Dai recreates the tension of the 1800s with a deft hand. The time period is rife with prejudice and political strife. Cole-Dai doesn’t shy away from the uglier dynamics. Be prepared to run a gauntlet of emotions as you read. Sarah’s story unfolds in meaningful ways, the past and present twisting together as Sarah tries to make sense of the chaos around her. Cole-Dai interweaves the Sioux language subtly into the narrative. She also provides a glossary at the back to further explore the intricacies of the language. The only thing I wanted more of was a deeper dive into Sarah’s emotions. There were some pivotal decisions made during her capture as well as after, and more time could have been spent emotionally fleshing out those moments. That said, Cole-Dai uses stunning detail to bring to life a heartrending journey, offering readers a sensitively explored story about a lesser-known conflict in American history. I wasn’t familiar with Sarah Wakefield before this novel, but her story will stay with me long after.