The Slocum family of Northeastern Pennsylvania are the best of the white settlers, peace-loving Quakers who believe that the Indians hold the Light of God inside. It is from this good-hearted family that Frances is abducted during the Revolutionary war.
As the child's terror subsides, she is slowly drawn into the sacred work and beliefs of her adoptive mother and of all the women of these Eastern tribes. Frances becomes Maconakwa, the Little Bear Woman of the Miami Indians. Then, long after the Indians are beaten and their last hope, Tecumseh, is killed, the Slocums hear word of their long-lost daughter and head out to Indiana to meet their beloved Frances. But for Maconakwa, it is a moment of truth, the test of whether her heart is truly a red one.
Having already produced one novel about a white woman captured by the Shawnee, popular historical novelist Thom (Follow the River) uses an actual captivity narrative as the inspiration for an ambitious, epic novel based on the well-known true-life story of Frances Slocum. The five-year-old daughter of a Pennsylvania Quaker family, Slocum was kidnapped by Delaware Indians in 1778 and adopted by an Indian woman who raised the child as her own. In Thom's telling of her story, we see Slocum grow into a respected figure among the Miamis, becoming Maconakwa--Little Bear Woman--and raising a family on her own. The events of her life are set against the gradual destruction of Indian life on the early U.S. frontier. After Tecumseh's historic defeat at the hands of treacherous future president William Henry Harrison, the Miamis are banished from their lands and Maconakwa is forced to choose between the two cultures. Her choice reveals that she does indeed have the "red heart" of the title. Thom's research is exhaustive, his eye for detail impressive. The scope of his tale will draw in readers undaunted by his natural expansiveness.