The Vengeance of Mothers

Written by Jim Fergus
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Legend says that in 1873, a Cheyenne chief offered a startling trade to President U.S. Grant—1,000 horses for 1,000 white women willing to marry into the tribe, produce children, and help the Cheyenne Indians make peace and blend white settlers’ culture with their own. The government had little faith in the program, so they selected prospective brides from society’s more desperate tiers: prisoners, prostitutes; even insane asylum inmates. The proposal and trade were never actually made, but Jim Fergus adopted the folklore for his award-winning novel, One Thousand White Women. In it, Meggie Kelly kept a journal of her experiences.

In his new western novel, Fergus brings back Meggie and her sister Susie, and introduces readers to Molly McGill. When Molly volunteers, she is released from prison, where she was sent after murdering her husband after he drunkenly beat their daughter to death. She narrowly escapes death when a Lakota band attacks her train, and takes the few survivors to their village. Molly meets Meggie and Susie Kelly there. They married Cheyenne men and bore children as hoped, but then barely survived the massacre of their village by U.S. Cavalry. Their children did not. Molly McGill joins Meggie in chronicling her assimilation into Indian culture, and her growing affection for the warrior Hawk.

I have not read One Thousand White Women, but didn’t need it to catch up with Meggie and Susie’s lives, or to thoroughly enjoy The Vengeance of Mothers. The women’s lives are hard, sometimes brutal, but with moments of tenderness, just like our own. Recommended (and I’m going to look for One Thousand White Women).