Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears is over, but the Cherokee who survived the punishing winter march from North Carolina to Oklahoma must now face the grueling task of resettlement in Indian Territory. The land is inhospitable, the promised government rations are slow to come, and resentment still runs deep. Each member of the tribe has private demons to battle, as well: Knobowtee and Maritole must find a way to understand one another again after the death of their infant daughter. O-ga-na-ya must overcome his rage against the men who drove him from his lands. Reverend Bushyhead must chart a path within a new faith, uniting a congregation still spiritually broken after the hardships of the march.
Diane Glancy at last brings us the sequel to her acclaimed 1996 novel Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears. As usual, Glancy’s research is impeccable, and her deep connection to her own Cherokee heritage finds beautiful expression in this work. Her lyrical account is interwoven with myth and tradition, at times slipping almost into verse. However, while her earlier Trail of Tears novel used the rhythm of the march to pace the many disparate narratives, the sequel threatens to stagnate. While the characters battle their own emotions, the plot lacks physical action. Readers familiar with the first-person viewpoint in the first book may find that the sequel’s shift to the third person has a distancing effect – and readers coming to the characters for the first time may be puzzled by some of the emotional scars of the trail that remain unexplained. Nonetheless, this book is an affecting tribute to Cherokee resettlement after the Trail of Tears, and a beautiful portrait of a downtrodden but resilient people.