The Night Birds

Genre: History, Fiction; Author: Thomas Maltman; Publisher: Soho Press

Set in the years surrounding the Great Sioux Wars in 19th-century Minnesota, Thomas Maltman’s debut novel The Night Birds weaves together the stories of three generations of a German-American family attempting to survive in the prairies alongside a tribe of Dakota Indians. The neighbors’ tentative truce allows for an exchange of languages and ideas, but as the tension between the two cultures escalates to violence, both sides are forced to choose between compassion and self-preservation. The intercut storylines meander between captivity tale and bildungsroman, but Maltman’s writing is most lucid when he explores the German folklore, Dakota mysticism, and pioneer spirituality that shape his characters’ understanding of their own harsh world. B-

Originally posted July 30 2007 — 12:00 AM EDT

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