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Tuesday September 02, 2014
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Diane Glancy

 

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back and forth in her retelling of the story of the sixteen-year-old Shoshoni mother who accompanied the explorers.

Sacajawea has achieved a certain mythical status as the self-sacrificing "guide" without whom Lewis and Clark would have been lost, and Glancy's novel — which is both formally inventive and easy to read — offers a corrective to the official myth. She humanizes her heroine, investing the young mother with intelligence and emotional nuance. Carrying her infant son the whole way, she endures the abuses of her French Canadian husband, and on arriving at the Pacific, she insists that she be allowed to see the breaking waves and a beached whale. Perhaps most interesting, Glancy's tale stresses that Sacajawea was needed not because she knew where to go but because she knew the words that would get the explorers the horses needed to cross the Rockies.

To tell her tale, Glancy invents a journal for Sacajawea and interweaves it with verbatim excerpts from the actual journals of the expedition's leaders. For instance, recounting how, when a young girl, she was kidnapped from her mountain group by the Hidatsa and taken out into the prairies, Lewis concludes:

. . . tho I cannot discover that she shews any immotion of sorrow in recollecting this event, or of joy in being again restored to her native country; if she has enough to eat and a few trinkets to wear I believe she would be perfectly content anywhere.

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