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Good Indian

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(1912)



I spotted B.M. Bower's 1912 "Good Indian", offered for a dime, at a Michigan yard sale. Despite it's worn appearance, the cover of the book intrigued me with its Art Deco presentation. A field of dark green highlighted flower stems of lighter green. The stems resembled coral formations, topped with tiny yellow flowers. An orange sunset at the top balanced the title and author's name, in orange, at the bottom. Inside, slight water damage revealed itself, as did four illustrations by Anton Otto Fischer. A thin sheet of tissue paper protected the first of the black-and-white, detailed and elegant illustrations. Despite it's musty aroma, I selected "Good Indian" - and enjoyed two solid days of Old West literature. The romantic Western suspense unfolds on the Hart family ranch in Southern Idaho. Peaceful and Phoebe Hart parented and raised five boys who work the ranch. In addition, they adopted Grant, who is one-quarter Shoshone and he also continues at age 23 to live and work on the ranch. The family expands - and is affected by - the arrival of a teenaged niece from back East. Bower touches on a current theme when she describes Grant as feeling alone and somewhat bitter - identified as Indian by the locals because of his mixed-race heritage, but accepted as white in his adoptive family. Discovering and dealing with a stealthy threat to the Hart's lifetime of hard work helps Grant mature. For the first time in his life he acknowledges the females in his world. Bower depicts strong women. Most are admirable but surprises emerge during the telling of this story. The novel develops like a seven-course meal: starting with lighter items and developing into meatier and satisfying fare. Although the dialect of the Indians feels cringe-worthy to us today, keep in mind that this book was published only 36 years after the battle of the Little Bighorn. When an Indian in the story says "Me no hurtum" the reader might feel inclined to stop reading, which would be a mistake. Bower captures well the "bodice busting" emotion of romance novels - but also delivers suspense that can make one gasp.--Submitted by Beatrice Koolovitz.

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