The American Civil War has ended, and the nation begins to heal itself from four torturous years. Canaan is about the bigotry and greed that surfaced after the war; white America imposed restrictions on the slaves as they searched for their newfound freedom, while white horse soldiers, called Washitu by the Indians, tried to destroy the Indian way of life in the West. This is also the story of the Gatewood family, their trials and tribulations after losing their plantation; a Negro medal of honor winner named Edward Radcliff, whose only home where he felt he belonged was the military; a Lakota woman named She Goes Before, who tries to survive in this new white man’s world; a former slave, Jesse Burns, who is educated and tries to change the world for the free Negro and their newfound right to vote.
The author tells his story from the viewpoint of his various characters, which leads to many different plots—Burns’s attempts to define freedom to the free Negroes of Virginia; Radcliff, who goes through a transformation of army medal of honor winner to Indian “brave” to army scout; Duncan Gatewood’s move from Virginia to the western plains to raise horses; Samuel Duncan, the former plantation owner who must build a new life for his family; and young Pauline, who marries a New York businessman with ties to the greedy tycoons of the 1870s.
This is a sequel to Jacob’s Ladder, written several years ago about the Civil War in Virginia. Even though there was no single protagonist, I thought the author wove the storylines of the characters together very well. I would recommend this book to those who, like me, enjoy a factual, well-written post-Civil War novel.