Wednesday, January 13, 2010

March Toward the Thunder: Civil War, with Canadians

Joseph Bruchac's historical novel about the civil war, March Toward the Thunder, follows Louis, a young (fifteen) Abenaki Indian, after he enlists in the Union army for some money and adventure. Bruchac's appendix explains that he loosely based the story on his ancestor's time in the army, but the main thrust of the book is educational; it has a bit of a prize token feel -- Louis meets with various situations and people to give a representative view of the American Civil War.

Women in combat? Check. Basic training, 1860's style? Check. Black soldiers? Check. Abraham Lincoln? Check. Fighting Irish? Check. Nurse Clara Barton? Check. General Ely Parker, Indian officer? Check. The plot chugged along, collecting all the historical coupons, with a few bonus Native American ones included.

It was fun having Louis as our viewpoint character, because his vantage point as an Abenaki and as a Canadian gave him some distance and an interesting take on events. He was a bit too perfect; although very young, he was among the most mature of his peers. He was free of prejudice. He was never tempted by gambling or sloth or women. He had infinite patience, super skills in the woods, good hygiene, and relentless quiet optimism. Most of these virtues were attributed to his Native American heritage, which flattened him as an individual. So a interesting book to read, but without resonating emotional impact. B.

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