Have a problem concerning race relations in history? Make up your own version and write a book about it. Make it so shallow and sticky sweet that it feels like eating one of those horrible too-sweet cakes that can be purchased from any supermarket bakery and, voila, you have Thunder Heart! Everyone was just too sweet in this book – even the villain. And they all communicated beautifully, and were so well behaved, isn’t that wonderful? It was all so nice and convenient, I nearly fell into a diabetic coma.
Thunder Heart and the Ponca people have moved onto a reservation in Missouri from their home of South Dakota. Along the way, Thunder Heart lost his beloved, pregnant wife, and many of his tribe have been struck down by a stomach ailment. The ranchers and townspeople next to the reservation are none to happy to see the Ponca. Bill Martin, a bigoted rancher who lost his own wife in an Indian raid, leads a group who have decided to take care of the Indians. They steal their horses and weapons, leaving the Ponca to slowly starve to death.
Dede Martin, who is not really Bill’s wife, overhears Bill and knows what he is doing is. . . wrong! She grabs her own horse and watches as Bill and his cronies steal the Ponca’s last remaining. . . salvation! I’m not exaggerating. . . the writing style looks like that. On the bluff, Dede sees a gorgeous and strong Indian brave struggling to return to his people and help them. He faints and she offers him water, realizing she is overwhelmingly attracted to him.Thunder Heart, returning from a vision quest, and having fasted for days, is too weak to save his people. Upon seeing the white men raiding his village, he is overwhelmed with anger. However, when the courageous white woman gives him water, he decides he must know her better!
Well, from there, Dede and Thunder Heart enjoy many adventures, the first four of them of them taking place in the span of a few days.
- Thunder Heart saves Dede’s son from a snapping turtle.
- Dede saves Thunder Heart’s village from the stomach sickness.
- Thunder Heart kidnaps Dede, but since she really wanted to go with him, it doesn’t count.
- Thunder Heart must travel to South Dakota, which is against the law for an Indian.
- Dede rescues Thunder Heart by using her dead husband’s law books and wiring the Secretary of the Interior to let Thunder Heart go! The Secretary, defeated by Dede’s legal arguments, relents. (This is my personal favorite.)
- Dede and Thunder Heart move to Nebraska and have many children.
These are not all of the melodramatic events contained in the story, however. As you can see, everything about this book is totally implausible. The characters are just as absurd. Dede’s son Johnny is a paragon. He never argues with Dede, and his behavior is impeccable. Thunder Heart and his tribe speak English, with certain Ponca words such as, Indadi, father, wizige, son, thrown in for emphasis. How they all know English is never mentioned. Dede lives with a man not her husband, and they have a great platonic relationship, until Dede meets Thunder Heart.
Dede and Thunder Heart have such nice talks. Everything is discussed and no minor cultural misunderstandings are allowed to develop into anything major. Dede finds the Indian way of life a “challenge,” and that’s all that’s mentioned. Even the villain’s actions turn into something sweet in the end.
The basic elements of this book could have been used to develop a touching romance based on the reality of history, instead it was turned into a stilted, ludicrous debacle. I shudder to think that someone reading this book might believe that this story is an accurate representation of life during the late 1870’s. Not on this planet, sister.
|Review Date:||January 19, 2000|