Published by Sarah Crichton Books on June 12th 2018
Buy on Amazon
“Danger knows full well that Custer is more dangerous then he.”
I love books which not only educate me but also evoke feeling and leave me thinking about them for long after I have finished reading. This was one of those books.
Yes, this book is about General George Armstrong Custer, a.k.a. Autie, and ultimately his last stand, but it is also about his wife, Elizabeth “Libbie” Custer and a fifteen- year-old girl named Anne who was taken captive during an attack on her homestead.
“The land, forgiving and without limit, will be the last true freedom.”
Exploration of the American frontier, the wild west, Indian wars, battle, love, loss, captivity, lust, self-reliance and inner strength are all highlighted in this book. I learned a lot about Custer and his career while reading this book. Not only did I learn about Custer, but I learned more about American History, the brutality of war, and the harshness of life on the plains. Reading books such as this always make me appreciate what I have and the times I live in.
The strength of this book is in its female characters. Fifteen-year-old Anne watches as her family is slaughtered. She is taken prisoner, raped, abused, traded, and subjected to the harsh realities of being held captive. She must rely on her inner strength and courage to survive. She becomes adept at reading situations and doing what she must to keep alive. She even cares for another young captive and befriends a female member of the tribe while in captivity. She also gives birth to two children while captive. She is subject to a life of constant change, starvation, heat and cold, constant movement and hard work.
Libbie is the daughter of a judge who does not want his daughter to marry the young, cocky Custer. He is a known womanizer and civil war hero! Custer is dashing and brave and Libbie can’t say no. She leaves behind her life of luxury to follow Custer to the plains. She is thrown into a life she does not know and must adapt to her surroundings. A life of hardships, constant moving, long periods of separation from her husband, loneliness, jealousy and unease become a way of life for her. Custer and Libbie wrote long letters to each other full of euphemism and double-entendre. One article I read described their letters as Victorian aged sexting. Custer even faced court Marshall and arrest for coming home to see his Libbie! They had a great love but that did not stop Custer from being a womanizer which caused Libbie great heartache and jealousy.
This book feels very sweeping in scope. It covers a lot of information and while reading I found myself doing my own research on the internet about Custer and his wife and the battle of little big horn. There are some violent scenes in this book. Battle is graphic and bloody. There are scalping’s, mutilations of bodies, suffering, horrible treatment and causalities on both side of the battles. Don’t let this scare you away. While reading this book, I thought of a quote from the movie, Blood Diamond: “Sometimes I wonder….Will God ever forgive us for what we have done to each other?”
This book was simply wonderful. I loved how both women became stronger in the face of danger and fear. Both had their lives changed forever and yet grew as individuals and found inner strength and confidence. Like Custer, they both had great courage and bravery. All the characters in this book are in a fight for survival. For some it is their job, for others it is a way of life. Custer sought his whole life to be a hero, but for me the women were the heroes in this book!
Talk about a book which evokes feeling! I thought about this book even when I wasn’t reading it. It truly is masterful, and I learned a great deal. Custer is an American Icon and I was captivated learning about him. Can you even imagine going into a battle where the odds are stacked against you?
“A mood, unspeakable, hovered over the expedition, and a sense of gloom that nothing would lift to pervadeded the men. They mumbled of bad dreams and made out wills. Unholy alliances were struck to avoid torture by the enemy. None smelled victory, they stank of fear, yet Custer refused to bow to it. How could he?”
I can’t say enough about this book, so I will simply say READ IT. Even if you are not a fan of westerns – READ THIS BOOK. I don’t consider myself a fan of westerns, but this is more than just a western. It is a story of strength, survival, and resiliency. It is wonderfully written and captivating. This is not a book which should be read fast – read it slowly- savor it, learn from it.
Also- read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. She describes her fascination of the wild west of America from the viewpoint of someone who came to the United States when she was five years old. She describes how she took some liberties and that this book is a work of imagination blended with fact and history.
Historical fiction buffs, history buffs, war buffs, army buffs, wild west buffs, strong women buffs, well-written book buffs – this book is for you!
Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All of the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.