Crow Mary A novel

Kathleen Grissom

Book - 2023

In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell's past, falls in love with her husband. The winter trading season passes peacefully. Then, on the eve of ...their return to Montana, a group of drunken whiskey traders slaughters forty Nakota--despite Farwell's efforts to stop them. Mary, hiding from the hail of bullets, sees the murderers, including Stiller, take five Nakota women back to their fort. She begs Farwell to save them, and when he refuses, Mary takes two guns, creeps into the fort, and saves the women from certain death. Thus, she sets off a whirlwind of colliding cultures that brings out the worst and best in the cast of unforgettable characters and pushes the love between Farwell and Crow Mary to the breaking point.

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Historical fiction
Action and adventure fiction
Western fiction
New York : Atria Books 2023.
First Atria books hardcover edition
Physical Description
xii, 348 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
Main Author
Kathleen Grissom (author)
Review by Booklist Review

Through fiction, authors can grant little-known historical figures a deserved spotlight. In her third luminous novel, Grisson reveals the astonishing heroism of an Indigenous woman she's wanted to write about for years. In 1872, 16-year-old Goes First of the Crow people agrees to marry a Yellow Eyes (white) fur trader named Abe Farwell. The alliance benefits her tribe, and he needs a Native wife to help make his planned trading post successful. The story delves into the trying realities of their cross-cultural marriage, which begins so promisingly. They relocate from Montana to western Canada's Cypress Hills, where Crow Mary (her English name) single-handedly rescues five Nakoda women from a violent, drunken gang following a horrific massacre, an event with momentous repercussions. Via her eloquent first-person voice, readers experience her world intimately: family life, nature's changing seasons (early October is "the moon when the redwing blackbirds gather"), and the vast cultural differences she encounters. Through many trials and heartbreaking indignities, Goes First remains true to herself in this empathetic, indelible portrait of courage and integrity.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Grissom (The Kitchen House) offers an ambitious account of bravery and initiative inspired by the true story of a Crow woman who married a white man in late-1800s Montana. Goes First is happy as a teenager, learning from her mother and grandmother how to pray, build a sweat lodge, and tan hides, and picking up English from her Métis grandfather. When Goes First is 16, the man she's meant to marry is killed in a buffalo stampede, and she agrees to marry 34-year-old white fur trader and whiskey seller Abe Farwell, who gives her people guns for protection against enemy Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. For their wedding ceremony, she's renamed Mary, and Abe brings her to Fort Benton, Mont., where she befriends a Métis woman who helps her deal with culture shock. Mary also shows cunning and strength when faced with violence and injustice, particularly with a drunken party of marauders while on a trading trip with Abe in Canada, qualities that drive the narrative toward a thrilling climax. With a flashback-heavy narrative, Grissom effectively conveys how Mary's Crow childhood stays with her over the course of her new life. This moving story of one woman's grit, survival, and resilience will keep readers turning the pages. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Company. (June)Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the protagonist's birth name.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Grissom's (The Kitchen House) new novel highlights the true-life story of a remarkable woman who straddled two differing cultures during a pivotal and horrifying time for Indigenous peoples across North America. At 16, Goes First of the Crow Nation marries a white fur trader, Abe Farwell, who calls her Crow Mary. Known for being fair and honest with his Indigenous customers, Abe has his sights on a trading fort in the Cypress Hills of Canada. While the season goes well, the end brings tragedy when Abe and Crow Mary witness the slaughter of 40 Nakota people. When Crow Mary sees the murderers abduct five women, she sets off alone to save them, triggering events that will bring heartache and personal triumph. It is a bittersweet tale based around the true story of Crow Mary and the battles she fought individually for herself and both sides of her family. Readers will be drawn to Crow Mary, and Grissom treats her subject matter with the respect and cultural sensitivity she deserves. VERDICT Filled with beautifully written natural scenes and unforgettable characters, this is a novel that will span age and genre appeals alike.--Laura Hiatt

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