She’s Gone Santa Fe
She’s Gone Santa Fe is based on a true murder that drew in the 1920s anthropological world. Anthropology student Henrietta Schmerler is disappointed at not receiving a field research position in New Mexico with her beloved professor Ruth Benedict. Undeterred, she reimagines herself as “Ree” and sets off for the Southwest on her own, hoping to catch Benedict’s attention.
Ree takes whatever job she can, first at the lesbian San Gabriel Dude Ranch and then with the enigmatic Hosteen Klah, a transgender Navajo medicine man. This choice to work with the controversial Klah has ramifications, which dog her even when she follows a mysterious and handsome stranger to a reservation trading post.
Despite being rich in history, Ree’s story never fully came alive for me. More engaging is the supporting cast, including Klah and the shy Benedict, both real historical figures. Although Ree is also based on the real Henrietta Schmerler, a determined anthropology student, she did not feel as layered a character. Her almost blind focus on winning both Benedict’s love and the respect of the anthropological community made it difficult to see her grow. She seeks acceptance, not understanding. There is a romance, but the novel is ultimately about Ree and her journey. It’s a worthy journey, to achieve success in a professional field in the 1920s. I only wish she’d traveled further.