Between Earth and Sky is a gripping historical fiction novel that kept me enthralled throughout the novel and left me in tears by the end. It was a story that will have me thinking about this piece of history far into the future.
Alma Mitchell picks up a newspaper in Philadelphia in 1906 and sees a picture of an old school friend that is now accused of murder. Asku “Harry” Muskrat has been accused of killing a federal agent on his reservation. Alma convinces her lawyer husband, Mitchell, to travel to St. Paul to help in the case and determine how to free Asku.
Alma has not discussed her childhood in Wisconsin with her husband in much detail. She flashes back to memories of her childhood moving to LaCrosse with her family to run the Stover School. Native American children were taken from their families and sent to the school to be “civilized.” Alma’s flashbacks have her growing up with the Native American children, trying to make friends and learn their culture, but never really being one of them.
As they turn into teenagers, the differences between them become more apparent. Asku is very smart and earns a scholarship to Brown, but will he be accepted by the white world once he graduates? Will he be accepted by his own people if he returns to the reservation? Why does Alma no longer visit or talk to her parents? What painful secrets does she have and will her marriage survive?
I was riveted by this novel. It was a very interesting part of history that I have not read too much about. Even better was by having the story told by alternating chapters between the “present 1906” and the past “1880s” the action and storyline were kept intense. I can guess the ending of a lot of books, but this book took me for a spellbinding ride and I had no idea how it would end. It kept on surprising me.
I enjoyed the characters in this story and how it opened up a dark period of American history. I had a past student bring this up to me in our chats; how Native American students were sent away to these boarding schools in Wisconsin where they were basically stripped of their heritage. I liked the journey of Alma as she realized that what she had been told as a child that it was better for the Native children to be “civilized” may not have been the truth after all. I do kind of wish the story could have actually been told by a Native American, but I will leave it to the reader whether they think this was a “white savior” story or not. I don’t want to ruin the plot.
I just watched a movie that I loved from my childhood, the old John Wayne movie, McLintock. I was surprised in there after just reading this book that it had a lot of the same themes. It was troublesome to my husband and myself to see how Native Americans were treated in cinema as well as what really happened to in real life as well.
Besides the heavy historical themes, I also like that this book took a look at love and marriage. Can marriage survive when your ideals of what you think your partner is like are shattered?
“Those days in the classroom, in the wood shop, marching around the grounds . . . Did you every stop and think what they were doing to us was wrong?’
“Perhaps it was best. The distance. There were too many ghosts between them tonight.”
“At Brown I was too Indian to fit in. When I returned home, I was too like a white man.”
“The adoration she’d seen a million times was gone from his gaze. Yet in its place was forgiveness. Acceptance. A love less perfect but more true. He squeezed her hand and she returned to her seat.”
Overall, fans of historical fiction will love Between Earth and Sky. It’s a great story that I’ve been telling everyone about. I’ve read a lot of good books this year and this is one of the best I’ve read.
Just to note, I’ve been a bit slow with posts lately and I apologize. We are moving two blocks away and things are not going as smoothly as we’d like. We own the house, but the previous owners are still not out yet two weeks later. We had plans for painting and moving but have had to keep redoing things. I’m still reading and will be posting as I can! Work has also been quite hectic as well.
Book Source: Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour. For more stops on this tour, check out the schedule at this link.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book. Have you ever read any novels about the Native American experience? If so, which ones did you enjoy or not enjoy?
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.
I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.
This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.
The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday May 11th!
Please make sure to check the week of May 14th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.