Once again, my favorite podcast Literary Disco delivers with an outstanding book recommendation. I hadn’t heard of this book, but thankfully the wait for it was long at my local library. I say thankfully because I am glad that people are becoming familiar with this gruesome and awesome (in the awe-stricken sense of the word) true story that should mar our nations history, if the people of our nation knew anything about it. And if, um, it wasn’t already super thoroughly marred.
The Osage Nation, forced to move from their original home to wherever the government told them to go, found themselves sitting on a big pile of money by way of oil-rich property. When many members of the same family die in mysterious circumstances, interests are piqued and the newly formed FBI is sent in to get to the bottom of it. The novels starts with mystery, progresses to shocking, then shockingly insidious, and then even more insidious. What I’m saying is, prepare yourself to be positively disgusted by what people will do to other humans in the quest for greed and dominance.
And let’s not even forget, that at the time, whether Native Americans were even considered people was a debate, so those that held power over them were at times not even apologetic for their actions. And, if murder isn’t bad enough (it is) those people lucky enough to not get murdered could still be swindled as in the current political climate, Native Americans didn’t have the same rights as everyone else, even to access their own money. Someone literally had a baby die because they couldn’t get the money to treat them, even though it was THEIR money, but the person who served to represent their interests wouldn’t let them have their own money. Ri-friggin-diculous.
It was represented in the podcast as in the same vein as “Devil in the White City” and I agree with that endorsement in that it is a fantastical non-fiction story that almost reads as fiction. I will say I think Devil was more successful in building suspense, but I think that was due to dual narrative threads – the reader had to wait to hear more about the murderous Holmes while veering deeper into the telling of the world’s fair. In this case, Grann was telling the one story, so there was no balance or relief but it was still told in a compelling way that preserved mystery and intrigue. Though there was the simultaneous storytelling regarding the FBI the two stories were two closely linked to provide any distance between them. The portrait of Tom White, the lead investigator, was the only relief from the “reign of terror” as he seemed to be an ethical and thoughtful law man, intent to get answers for the Osage.
This is an awful story about awful people doing awful things to innocent people. And everyone should read it, as those that don’t know our sordid history are doomed to repeat it.