So Wide the Sky by Elizabeth Grayson
Avon Books, $5.99, PG, ISBN 0380-77846-7
*****
This post Civil War novel is set on an army post near the Platte River. The story begins with the trade of an Indian captive, Cassandra Morgan, for goods andmerchandise. The exchange turns into an ambush, and Cass is suspected of complicity inthe battle.

Her return to the Anglo world is also marred by the cruel facial tattoo she bears as aformer Indian slave. Her emotional scarring from this captivity, as advertised by the tattoo, and the resolution of it, is the author's central theme.

The plot is carefully constructed, bringing together Captain Drew Reynolds, Lone Hunter Jalbert and Cassandra. Cass was Drew's first love and had been captured by the Kiowas when their families' wagon train was attacked. Drew had been left for dead, but the loss of both Cass and his family fashioned his army career with the bitterness toward Indians that accompanies great hatreds. Lone Hunter is a half Indian scout who has lived his life in the land between two worlds.

Drew , a widower with a small child he ignores, marries Cass to assuage his sense of duty and to solve the problem of his child's care. Her skills acquired while living as an Indian are suspect rather than applauded, and her mere presence at the post is treated withcontempt and suspicion. Lone Hunter watches as she struggles to fight her way back from the Indian culture to her new life. His understanding of her status between worlds isreflective of his own plight, and his sympathy for her gently evolves into love.

The interaction of these well developed and complex characters is treated with skill andpoignancy. The plot evolves naturally, enhanced by the meticulous historical accuracy of theauthor and the dialogue which is consistently 19th century.

This very critical reviewer can find no flaws with Grayson's treatment of this subject. Because of the uniqueness of the topic, and the author's compassionate mastery of it, SoWide the Sky may well be the rare unforgettable book.

--Thea Davis


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