I may be overstating it though, because, in my (decidedly subjective opinion) Savage Fires is not really a book. It is more like an outline for a television series, the kind that sanitizes American history and uses every possible “disease of the week” issue to showcase a crowd of gorgeous young actors and actresses. I don’t care much for that kind of show, but at least it’s free.
As our story opens, Ottawa Indian chief, Wolf needs a lawyer to defend his tribe’s fishing rights. An old friend introduces him to Jo Stanton, a crack attorney, who, in spite of the fact that she is wheelchair bound and a woman (which means she cannot even vote) appears to have had no trouble amassing a perfect trial record. Seeing that Wolf may be reluctant to hire her, Jo makes this compelling argument: “I assure you Wolf, that I will walk away the victor.”
That’s all it takes. Faster than you can say “politically correct,” Wolf is overwhelmed with shame for thinking that Jo’s gender or disability might hinder her. Though the fate of his tribe’s winter food supply hinges on the outcome of the trial, he has no misgivings. This is good judgment for, as in courtroom dramas everywhere, Jo easily wins her case.
A story about an Indian rights lawsuit might be enough material for most books, but Jo prevails on page one-hundred-one. One thing you can say for Cassie Edwards, she sure stuffs a lot of action into a story. Here is just a sample of what happens next. In a television series each of these would be an episode:
- Jo miraculously recovers her ability to walk as she saves her father, Addison, from a fire. Addison, who was initially wary of Wolf, credits Jo’s recovery to him and welcomes him into the family.
- After marrying Wolf, Jo is kidnapped by Max, her ex-fiance. She is saved by white wolves and the vultures who sense that she is in danger. They go and tell Wolf where Jo is so that he can save her. I swear I am not making this up – the wolves and the vultures really do this.
- Jo and Wolf adopt a disabled child and encounter much opposition.
- Wolf’s father rejects Jo but in a “touching” turnaround agrees to accept her and use the wheelchair she brought him.
- Wolf speaks at the Chicago exposition on behalf of his people and encounters opposition.
This is the kind of book where only bad people are prejudiced, so Jo and Wolf encounter little opposition to their union, except from villains who are eventually killed off. There is virtually no internal conflict in the story. Jo and Wolf sense their attraction immediately and act on it, a lot. Jo worries fleetingly about Wolf’s acceptance of her and her ability perform sexually but the resolution is so fast you barely see it. For a nineteenth century virgin, Jo’s thoughts are astoundingly sophisticated and she frets that her disability may prevent her from having an orgasm. (huh?) But, of course, not to worry.
Perhaps most offensive is the way the Indian characters speak in a “Indian Romance” dialect. Even when they are, presumably, communicating in their own language they speak in short stilted sentences without contractions. Their comments are studded with Ottawa phrases, making their thoughts seems slower and less sophisticated than those of whites. Here’s how Wolf thanks Jo after the trial: “My people thank you. I thank you. Because of you my people are free to fish again.” I suppose this is better than saying “We give heap big thanks,” but not much.
I’ve noticed Cassie Edwards books for years on the supermarket aisles and was curious about them in spite of myself. If you are similarly interested I strongly recommend that you go to your nearest thrift shop and find one. Don’t spend much over a quarter though. $5.99 for Savage Fires is really not worth your hard earned money.
|Review Date:||August 4, 1999|