By Jane Smiley
Six years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, A Thousand Acres, and 3 years after her witty, acclaimed, and best-selling novel of academe, Moo, Jane Smiley once more demonstrates her impressive diversity and brilliance.
Her new novel, set within the 1850s, speaks to us in a wonderfully quirky voice—the robust, wry, no-nonsense voice of Lidie Harkness of Quincy, Illinois, a tender girl of braveness, strong feel, and strong center. It consists of us into an the US so violently torn aside by means of the query of slavery that it makes our present political battlegrounds look a peaceful nation.
Lidie is difficult to scare. She is sort of shockingly alive—a tall, undeniable lady who rides and shoots and speaks her brain, and whose ordinary methods sarcastically quantity to a type of glamour. We see her at twenty, creating a stable marriage—to Thomas Newton, a gradual, sweet-tempered Yankee who passes via her place of origin on a perilous challenge. He belongs to a bunch of rashly courageous New England abolitionists who commit themselves to settling the Kansas Territory with like-minded folks to make sure its getting into the Union as a loose State.
Lidie packs up and is going with him. And the radical races along them into the Territory, into the maelstrom of "Bloody Kansas," the place slaveholding Missourians continuously and viciously conflict with loose Staters, the place wandering youths kill you once examine you--where Lidie turns into much more fervently abolitionist than her husband because the younger couple repeatedly slightly break out entrapment in webs of atrocity on each side of the good question.
And while, abruptly, cold-blooded homicide invades her personal intimate circle, Lidie doesn't falter. She cuts off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and rides into Missouri looking for the killers--a girl in a fiercely male international, an abolitionist secret agent in slave territory. at the run, her existence threatened, her wits sharpened, she takes on one more identity--and, within the very midst of her masquerade, discovers herself.
Lidie grows more and more very important to us as we stick with her travels and adventures at the feverish eve of the conflict among the States. With its crackling portrayal of a wholly person and fantastically articulate lady, its storytelling force, and its strong recapturing of a virtually forgotten a part of the yankee tale, this can be Jane Smiley at her captivating and enriching top.