No Resting Place

William Humphrey, Author
William Humphrey, Author Delacorte Press $18.95 (249p) ISBN 978-0-385-29729-5
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Dramatizing a shameful chapter in our history, Humphrey relates the story of the Trail of Tears, the forced exodus of the Cherokee Nation from Georgia in 1807, their internment in Tennessee and their virtual death march to Texas, where they were again betrayed and slaughtered. Though it's a heartbreaking saga, it lacks the bittersweet surge of narrative drive that distinguishes Humphrey's best work. The focal figure is teenager Amos Ferguson, known to his Indian kin as Noquisi. Blond, blue-eyed and fair-skinned, Amos comes from one of many prosperous, sophisticated Georgia families with mixed white and Cherokee blood. Betrayed when their tribal lands are sold to venal speculators by their own leaders, the Cherokees endure near-starvation, epidemic illness, bitter cold and killing fatigue on their journey West. Then, having finally achieved their promised homeland, the cruelly outnumbered refugees are forced into a foreordained losing battle with the Texas Rangers. Humphrey uses cumulative details to create a visceral impression of the harsh misery of the long march. While the story has intrinsic interest, it betrays difficulty in construction; flashbacks are awkwardly thrust into the narrative, and, perhaps because it is told in the third person instead of through the eyes of a narrator intimately affected by events, there is a lack of emotional engagement. Still, readers probably will welcome any new book by the author of the classic novels Home from the Hill and The Ordways and the unforgettable memoir Farther off from Heaven . (June)
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