cover image Cherokee America

Cherokee America

Margaret Verble. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-328-49422-1

At the heart of Verble’s excellent second novel, following Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud’s Line, is a woman named Cherokee America Singer, aka Check. Check is a Cherokee, prosperous landowner, widow, and mother of five sons struggling to keep her family together amid the conflicts between natives and whites in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in 1875. This is a dangerous time for the Cherokee—outlaws are invading their territory, rumors of hidden gold attract unwelcome attention, and a federal judge uses a murder to try to impose federal law on protected Native land. The murder victim is Cherokee and the killers are white, complicating the question of jurisdiction. In an effort to protect Cherokee sovereignty, Check, the townspeople, and the sheriff deceive the investigating U.S. marshals to save an innocent man from arrest. However, when the investigation reaches Check’s doorstep, she must take matters into her own hands to try to save her family. In Verble’s hands, this tale of a mother’s love and her gritty resolve in a shameful era of false promises and broken treaties makes for a rich, propulsive novel. (Feb.)