Mountain Windsong: A Novel of the Trail of Tears

Robert J. Conley, Author
Robert J. Conley, Author University of Oklahoma Press $11.95 (218p) ISBN 978-0-8061-2452-0
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 218 pages - 978-0-8061-2746-0
Hardcover - 220 pages - 978-0-585-14947-9
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In his engrossing new novel (after Go-Ahead Rider ), the noted writer on western and Native American themes again turns his attention to the history of his people, the Cherokees. Conley chronicles the Trail of Tears--the forced removal of the tribe in the 1830s from its homelands in the southeastern U.S. to alien territory in Oklahoma. He gives this epic drama a human scale by focusing on the story of Oconeechee, daughter of a famous Cherokee chief, and Waguli (Whippoorwill), the young man she loves. Separated by the genocidal march--one-quarter of the participants died en route to Oklahoma--the pair spend much of the novel searching for each other. A young Native American named LeRoy (or ``chooj,''chooj is lc as he is called) narrates their saga, related to him by his grandfather after he asks about the beautiful ``windsong'' he has heard on a North Carolina reservation occupied by descendants of the Cherokees who escaped relocation. ``It's the love song of Oconeechee and Whippoorwill,'' replies the grandfather, who uses the couple's tale to teach chooj about his heritage. Uncompromisingly accurate and authentic, the narrative incorporates historical documents (the full text of the 1835 treaty the Cherokees signed with the U.S. government is included; as a result, the story slows for some pages) and many words in the Cherokee language. As the tragic tale unfolds, the novel acquires power and resonance and the reader cannot failed to be moved by Conley's insights into Cherokee history and culture. ( Nov. )
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