“A richly poetic read. Barry is concerned again with shifting sexual, personal and political boundaries, with the effects of tumultuous times – of rivalry, lawlessness and fissure – on individuals, families and communities, and with interactions between those on opposite sides of a political debate.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
A strong successor to the sublime Days Without End , A Thousand Moons takes up from where that book finishes, on the farm in Tennessee where Winona, a young Lakota Indian is living with her somewhat unusual adoptive family, Thomas McNulty and John Cole on the Magan farm with it’s owner Liege, and two freed slaves. While it is not essential to have read Days Without End to enjoy this book , it will certainly add an extra layer to the enjoyment, and it is in itself a wonderful book and well worth reading.
This book focuses on Winona and her story, and it was interesting to see things from her perspective, especially what she remembered from her time with her tribe before they were massacred , which was much more than was suggested in the previous book which was told from the perspective of Thomas. In fact one of the most interesting and skilfully handled aspects of the book was the shift in narrator which gave the reader a new perspective on what could have seemed too familiar.
Life in Tennessee after the Civil War is not easy for anyone , the divided loyalties of the state still flares up into tension from time to time, and being a person of colour carries an extra risk, one that Winona is only too aware of. As an Indian she is regarded as less than human, someone who can be attacked or beaten with little fear of legal consequences, so when she returns home one night beaten and bloody, her adoptive fathers want to seek out the culprit and render some frontier justice of their own. The most likely culprit is a young store clerk who came courting her but Winona says she cannot remember what happened and just wants to forget it. Ultimately in order to move forward and enjoy the comfort and happiness she finds in a most unlikely source, she will have to confront the issues from her past.
Once again Barry’s beautiful lyrical prose is a highlight, at times it is almost poetic. Once the reader gets used to Winona’s cadences and speech patterns it becomes smooth, but early on the first person narration felt a little jarring and cumbersome. Getting a different perspective on familiar characters is always interesting, and once again we see that people are rarely good or evil, they often live in the shades of grey in between.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.
Added 27th April 2020