Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
*Starred Review* Traded by her father to settle a bet, Harriet spends her childhood in slavery to a ragtag tribe of Pawnee whose leader is obsessed with creating earthen mounds laden with the bones of his human victims. Mere hours before she is to be burned at the stake to feed his crazed vision, Harriet escapes and ventures alone across an unknown and unforgiving landscape, constantly on the lookout for the father who abandoned her four years earlier. Briefly taking up with a family of sod busters, Harriet is burdened with their newborn son after the parents are killed in a freak storm. As she strikes out on her own with the boy, Harriet makes her way to a small settlement where she ekes out a living as a shopkeeper, putting her in contact with the full panoply of drifters and grifters, soldiers and outlaws who are populating the new territory. Creating a western world as raucous and unpredictable as any imagined by Larry McMurtry, and teeming with characters as tragically heroic as those created by Willa Cather, Svoboda offers a vividly distinctive tale of the American frontier. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2011 September #2
Set at the beginning of the Civil War, Svoboda's fifth novel (after Pirate Talk or Mermalade) is told from the unusual perspective of Harriet, a young woman whose father has sold her into slavery to settle a gambling debt owed to a Native American obsessed with building a mound. After escaping captivity, she encounters a range of colorful individuals on the American frontier, her adventures recalling those of Huck and Jim in Twain's classic American novel. To protect herself, she eventually feigns the identity of a slain shopkeeper's niece and assumes ownership of his store while also pretending to be the mother of an abandoned child. VERDICT In this nod to Willa Cather's My Ántonia, Svoboda offers a brave and believable heroine who not only perseveres but thrives amid strange characters and harsh times. Her skill as a poet is evident in her descriptions of both emotional and physical landscapes. Recommended for all fiction readers.—Faye A. Chadwell, Oregon State Univ. Libs., Corvallis[Page 72]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2011 July #3
At the onset of the Civil War, in "the Christian Year of Our Lord 1861," a 12-year-old girl meets a bitter fate when her father loans her to an elderly Pawnee Indian to settle a debt. That the debt came from losing a foot race to the mouth of a river "too thick to drink, too thin to plow" only makes matters worse. The girl joins other slaves and indentured servants who do an Indian Mound builder's work, spending their days hobbled, crafting heaps of sand, clay, and bone. But when she realizes that the Indian has no intention of releasing her as promised, she frees herself from her rawhide ties and heads east in search of her family. Calling herself Harriet, she narrates her grim odyssey in a poetic, convincing, but relentless voice. Still, Harriet's observations of the world and her small place in it are insightful and often touching. And Svoboda (Trailer Girl and Other Stories) often displays a poet's touch with language and imagery. Part of the University of Nebraska's Flyover Fiction series, edited by Ron Hansen. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC