17 September 2015

Review: William Wells and Maconaquah, White Rose of the Miamis by Julia Gilman

Trade paperback, 317 pages
Published 1985

Acquired December 2012
Read May 2015
William Wells and Maconaquah, White Rose of the Miamis
by Julia Gilman

I'm on a project to read fiction set in my hometown of Cincinnati, tired by years of American fiction that seems to equate "New York" or "Massachusetts" with the entirety of the United States. First up is William Wells and Maconaquah, a fictionalized version of the lives of two white settlers who were taken by the Indians as children and raised among them. It's very uneven: Gilman has a very distanced narrative perspective, so it's impossible to get emotionally invested in this book, as one never really cares what happens to either character. At one point, William Wells essentially decides to sell his people out to the whites, but apparently he experiences no emotions over this, despite having an Indian wife and children-- later he commits bigamy with as little introspection. Meanwhile, Maconaquah drops out of the book for hundreds of pages at a time, so I'm not sure why she rates being in the title. The title character barely even meet, to boot! Worsening all this is that Gilman is just not a very good writer, with lots of awkward dialogue exchanges especially, and lots of characterization told but not shown.

The book is good at delineating exactly how and why the Indians were screwed over by the white invaders, but I could have read a good history book if that's what I was after. In the end, very little of the book was set in Cincinnati, anyway. Its setting ranges from eastern Pennsylvania (the Wilkes-Barre area) to Kentucky to Fort Wayne, Indiana, with just a couple chapters set at Fort Washington, in what would later be called Cincinnati.

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