cover image The Removes

The Removes

Tatjana Soli. FSG/Crichton, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-24931-1

Soli (The Lotus Eaters) unleashes a thrilling novel set in the violent Wild West just as the Civil War ends, when a newly formed United States set its sights on Native American territory. Onto the larger canvas of the lives of George Armstrong Custer, the soldier tasked with defeating and corralling the Natives, and his spirited wife, Libbie, is painted the horrific tale of Anne, a young daughter of settlers in the Kansas Territory. The story opens with unimaginable violence as Anne is captured and her family slaughtered by the Cheyenne, then jumps from her travails to the lives of Libbie and Custer, nicknamed “Autie.” Soli depicts Custer flailing to find a purpose after the war; his love of battle and the open prairie make him more kin to his Native “enemies” than to his own people. The Custers forge an unbreakable bond, the story swinging from Libbie’s perspective to Autie’s, and to Anne’s, who is battling simply to stay alive. Anne survives starvation, rape, and childbirth, only to eventually be brutalized by one of her own. The clash of cultures is Soli’s grand theme, and here she drives home her message that the winners are no more worthy than the losers, and that “not even brotherhood was enough to safeguard people who had what others coveted.” (June)