Upper Missouri River, 1825
Against the wild grandeur of the Rocky mountains and a richly woven tapestry of Indian cultures--Sioux, Mandan, Crow, Shoshoni--Coyote Summer unfolds into an unforgettable tale of love and reconciliation, destiny, and the indomitable spirit.
No two people could be more different: Heals Like A Willow, a beautiful young Shoshoni medicine woman, and Richard Hamilton, a Harvard philosophy student new to the frontier. Though they come from worlds apart, hindered by vastly different cultures, their souls have met and will not be denied.
But Willow has ties to the Spirit world and a responsibility to her people. In visions she has seen the coming White Storm brewing in the East--the endless stream of settlers overrunning the land, pouring ever westward. She must leave the trading posts, the river, and the company of white men. Even if it means leaving behind the one who has taken her heart.
Armed only with his philosophy, meaningless in the harsh reality of the Rockies, Richard sets out after her. Facing the endless expanse of mountains and snow, a new understanding dawns on Richard--that his desperate search for love and illumination may bear the ultimate price.
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Richard Hamilton, the hero of this solid western, rues the day when his father sent him west. Robbed and sold into indentured servitude on a keelboat, this young student of philosophy is forced to forsake his genteel Bostonian manners and breeding. In the harsh Upper Missouri country of the 1820s, it's kill or be killed. Dick learns that early, when he kills a Pawnee to save the life of an Indian woman, Heals Like the Willow. After a raiding party of Crows steals his company's horses, Dick is almost slaughtered himself when he accompanies brutal hunter Travis on a relentless pursuit of the thieves. Gear skillfully intercuts Dick's story with that of Willow. Epigrams from philosophers like Hegel and Hobbes comment on the action and show just how far Dick must descend into savagery in order to survive. In the end, Dick and Willow find love together--and the promise of a new life as their daughter is born. In the story of Willow, who is bedeviled by the old trickster Coyote, Gear (Long Ride Home; and coauthor with his wife, Kathleen O'Neal Geer, of the First North American Series) skillfully weaves in traditional Native myths, as well. At times, Gear's exposition and dialogue can be a bit forced, but he delivers a well-plotted page-turner that distinguishes itself from other westerns in the depth and quality of its historical reconstruction.