Thirteen year old Red Dove lives in interesting times for the Lakota people. Shortly after the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Big Horn), her people have fallen on hard times. Food has become scarce, and the Lakota have learned that they cannot trust the people who have settled on their lands to live peacefully.
In a moment of weakness, Red Dove’s mother agrees to send her children to a local Catholic school, hoping that the children will at least find regular meals there. Red Dove’s grandfather hopes that she will also learn the ways of the Wasichu to better bridge the gap between her people and these strangers. The journey will be so much harder than any of them know.
Though I’ve read a fair amount of middle grade fiction, Red Dove, Listen to the Wind is a hard one for me to grasp. I think it’s the kind of book that would be a favorite of a reader of the right age. Red Dove, like Meg Murry before her, is a difficult girl, chafing against two cultures that both would rather she wasn’t so active or assertive. Coming to this as an adult, and as someone with a pretty good idea of what’s ahead for her people, Red Dove comes across as a bit of a brat. She pushes where she shouldn’t, choosing to hunt though the women of her tribe do not hunt. But, if I step back, I can see that she’s not wrong: Red Dove makes choices that feel real for a girl her age in the challenge times she lives in. If she can hunt better than her brother, isn’t it better that she does so? Who would choose hunger over tradition? (Hunger actually drives a few of her poor choices, which: girl, same.)
Red Dove’s story is heart-breaking. The cruelty of the events she lives through prompted me to set the book aside a number of times. But the gentle magic of the book balances some of the harder elements.
I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in order to facilitate this review.