The Vengeance of Mothers

Jim Fergus returns to the story of One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd (1998), about a fictional 1880s government plan to assimilate Native Americans by swapping Caucasian women for Cheyenne horses. In The Vengeance of Mothers, a Chicago journalist receives the journals of women who participated in the Brides for Indians program.

Hopeful as they headed west in 1876 to marry warriors, most of the volunteers were escaping unjust imprisonment or abuse. Unbeknownst to these women, the first "brides" met grisly fates, not from the Cheyenne, but when army troops attacked their village, killing Indians and whites indiscriminately. They were traveling into a post-massacre retaliation, and just seven of the second group survive an Indian attack on their train.

The journals of twins Meggie and Susie Kelly (among the first group of volunteers), as well as Molly McGill (of the second wave), chronicle their experiences. The twins, grieving their infants' deaths, are determined to kill every soldier they see; Molly focuses on making a new life with the Cheyenne. Fergus alternates between Meggie's coarse, unschooled voice and former schoolteacher Molly's more sophisticated language. Each narrator describes brutal battles with the U.S. army, while finding love and tenderness among the Indians and the white women who they share their fate.

Fans of One Thousand White Women, a book club favorite for 20 years, will recognize familiar characters in The Vengeance of Mothers, but newcomers to Fergus's imagined intermingling of Caucasian women and the Cheyenne people will easily step into this incredible spinoff from American history. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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