"The Empire of the Summer Moon" by S.C. Gwynne. A Short Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Both (Comanches and Anglo-Americans), as it turned out, had for the past two centuries been busily engaged in the bloody conquest and near-extermination of Native American tribes. Both had succeeded in hugely expanding the lands under their control" (23). So goes S. C. Gwynne's book that topped the New York Times Bestseller list for 82 weeks, "Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History". In this heavily documented manuscript there's no room here, thankfully, for the mythological and progressivist "noble savage" notion and no place, again thankfully, for the jingoistic fable of Anglo-American righteous cause. In other words, it was a great book showing how real, rawboned, rugged and trans-racial is man's inhumanity to man. If Gwynne were a good Calvinist, he could have done no better in portraying the evidences of total depravity in this highly readable, captivating depiction of North American history.
Readers can find a plentiful montage of details on the book be perusing the thousands of reviews already "live" on the various book-selling venues. But here I will simply point out a few items from this 2010 softback. It's not primarily about Quanah Parker, per se. The Parker story weaves in and out of the chapters, giving it a framework that keeps readers turning the pages, and becomes the main story-line in the last third of the narrative. But the majority of the tale describes the rise of the Comanches as the chief mounted Indian warriors, and their decline as they were relentlessly confronted with westward expansion and Manifest Destiny. The gripping narrative gives breadth to our perceptions of what the Midwest and Plains would have been like, and how life, death, and war were viewed. It also expands our notions of the ways our Anglo-American forebearers saw themselves, their mission and their fate. It was delightful to read of historical places around what is now Oklahoma (where I grew up, and now live) and Texas. It has helped to add new meanings and memories to old places I travel through fairly regularly.
"The Empire of the Summer Moon" is gritty, gory, and engrossing. If a person is looking for a good historical work to give some unique texture to their understanding of U.S. history that is not sugar-coated or candied, this is a great place to begin. I highly recommend the book.
You can get the book here: Empire of the Summer Moon
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