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The Place Where They Cried - Rose Christo 4.5 Stars

The love story between Gives Grain and Middle Road Maker is one of the most romantic I have ever read. But I am going to have to tell you right off the bat that this is not a Romance, because I am pretty sure that if I let people believe that I would be buried in hate mail. What this story does is make you fall in love with these two men and then it rips your heart out. Multiple times.

Know that this is a historical novel, set it in the American West in the mid to late 1800s. The story is told in alternating POV chapters between Gives Grain, a Paiute shaman and Middle Road Maker, a Shoshone chief. If you have any knowledge of American history you already know this story isn’t going to end with these two men blissfully sharing a tipi, untroubled by the rest of the world. And the title is a dead giveaway too. I would have been perfectly fine if the story had ended about 45% in, when the men are together and the Pony Express War seems to be over. I would have willfully ignored the facts of history to have them ride off into the sunset together. Instead there is carnage. O my god, the carnage. If it wasn’t for those same facts of history I would have accused the author of overdoing it. How many massacres does one book really need, right? As many as there actually were, obviously. And that makes this a 762 page book, taking us from the Pony Express War through Wounded Knee.

But in between there is so much more. First of all the connection between the two men, which is palpable. The connection with their family, the different tribes, their stories and the land. It’s about the ways the different tribes come together in the face of adversity, their different customs and backgrounds, the frictions and the joys. There are so many wonderful secondary characters in this book that are so fleshed out that, despite the fact that there are dozens of them, I had no trouble keeping them apart. This story is as much their story as it is Gives Grain’s and Middle Road Maker’s. The two main characters have distinctly different voices and different views, but complement each other so well it’s no wonder they need each other like they do.

I have purposely waited a day or two to write this paragraph. I was curious to see how the book would live on in my mind after I’d finished it. What would stick with me, the anger, the sadness, or the joy? I was afraid that the lingering impression would be one of silent horror, but I am glad to say that it is not. While I am sure certain haunting mental images will keep popping up in my head from time to time, and my knowledge of the bloody history of the US is now a lot more visceral than it was, what is staying with me most strongly is a pervasive sense of beauty and love. (It probably helped that I went back and reread some of the early parts of the book). I think it is an amazing feat that Ms Christo managed to infuse this blood soaked historic tale with so much love that that is what touches the reader most in the end.

There are a few instances where things are a bit repetitive, where the reader gets things explained that have already been explained. And as long as the book is, a little tighter content editing would not have gone amiss there. Apart from that, the writing is top notch and there are no other editing issues. I always appreciate it when self-published authors take pride in their work that way. And for $2.99 all her books are a steal.

If you’ve never read anything by Christo before, though, I don’t think this is the best one to start with, just in case it would scare you off the rest of her work and that would be a pity. Maybe try [b:Gives Light|15810499|Gives Light (Gives Light, #1)|Rose Christo||21535494] first. I also have a better appreciation now for the very light-hearted approach she took with [b:White Buffalo Calf Warriors|17792766|White Buffalo Calf Warriors|Rose Christo||24887208] after writing The Place Where They Cried. As great a read as it is, it is not for the faint of heart. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to write it.