About the Book
When American pioneers set their hearts on a California valley where Indians had been living for thousands of years, a period of uneasy appraisal emerged, followed by conflict and soon enough by genocide. The epic greed and violence of the 1850’s and 60’s has been brushed aside by history, conveniently forgotten in the pride of conquest. Willful ignorance and cruelty, terror and desperation were common in that time, but there were moments too of nobility and compassion, ingenuity and forgiveness, qualities which might have prevailed if certain things had been different. Rush of Shadows brings to life two freethinking women, Mellie, a white, and Bah
Historical General Fiction
***** (5 Stars)
This book was written in chronicle style, like a collection of journals from different people put together to narrate a single story.
It begins with a young woman, Mellie, who was moving with her husband to settle in the South, and then comes in contact with some Native Americans—at the time, Indians—witnessing the harsh and unfair treatment upon them. The story emphasizes her unusual relationship with a native woman. Although Mellie has a sense of justice and longs to right the many wrongs, she struggles for a long time on what to do about this treatment. She eventually resorts to speaking up for them, something she learned from her father. Unto the end of the story, it seemed her work made no difference in persuading the public to be fair to the natives, but clearly, her kindness made a difference to the natives.
The time/setting of this story stretches from before and after the death of President Abraham Lincoln, spelling out the true feelings of the South, and how they reacted to the Declaration Act for Freedom, especially in dealing with the natives. Thankfully, though the book ended on a solemn note, it wasn’t exactly without hope.
I noticed a mix of religions in this book—it isn’t a Christian genre. There are characters with enough respect for the church, but the Native American spirituality was quite intense. Most characters didn’t have a care for either.
In reading this book, I sensed that the author’s aim was to tell the true American history—as grim as it was—without mincing words. She intended to write a book that showed the unfairness upon Native Americans—a truly bold literature. I’ll have to admit I didn’t care for the cussing. Thankfully, they were few, and not the general language of the book; the cussing was particular to certain characters. This is not a book written just to entertain. It explores history, teaches and informs. So brace yourself.
Finally, the literature quality is one of the best I’ve seen. Bell managed to write this book in a style that had the unique attribute of appearing as though it’s a “telling”, yet infused with adequate “showing”. I thought it was brilliant and remarkable.
*Although I offer this review to the public, it is my opinion and simply that. My appreciation to JKS Communications for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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About the Author
Catherine Bell grew up in a New England family with a sense of its past as distinguished and its culture superior, as chronicled in many of her short stories. An early reader, she found in fiction that penetrating experience of other people’s lives that opens a wider world. The Winsor School, Harvard, and Stanford prepared her to recognize good writing and thinking. She credits work as a gardener, cook, cashier, waitress, and schoolbus driver with teaching her how to live in that wider world.
She has also worked as a secretary, freelance writer, and therapist, served as a teacher in the Peace Corps, and taught in inner city schools. She has lived in Paris, Brasilia, Nova Scotia, Northern California, and Washington, D.C. Culture clashes, even within families, are often subjects of her fiction. She has published stories in a number of journals, including Midway Journal, Coal City Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Sixfold, Solstice, and South Carolina Review. Her story “Among the Missing” won The Northern Virginia Review’s 2014 Prose Award.
She researched and wrote Rush of Shadows, her first novel, over a period of twenty years after she married a fourth-generation Californian and fell in love with his home territory, the Coast Range. The bright sunburned hills, dark firs, clear shallow streams, and twisted oaks were splendid, but the old barns and wooden churches and redwood train station didn’t seem old enough. Where was the long past? Where were the Indians? There was only the shadow of a story passed down by her husband’s grandmother late in life. Born in 1869, she grew up playing with Indian children whose parents worked on the ranch her father managed. One day the Army came to remove the Indians and march them to the reservation, and that was that. She was four years old, and she never forgot.
Bell lives with her husband in Washington, D.C. and visits children and grandchildren in California and Australia. As a teacher at Washington International School, she loves reading great books with teenagers.