“Cherokee America” is a wonderfully told historical fiction story. Margaret Verble sets her novel in 1875, in the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma Territory. The book is told from Cherokee America Singer’s point of view.
Singer, known as Check, is the matriarch and a member of the Cherokee Nation. She is of mixed blood, the daughter of a famous soldier and slaveholder, the wife of an abolitionist and the mother of five sons. Singer knows almost everything there is to know in the Nation.
The story involves a missing baby, a lost child, and eventually a murder. The Cherokee need to solve the murder before the United States Marshalls show up.
Check is a force to be dealt with. She is kind, firm, honest, practical and realistic. She also is unafraid and respected for her integrity. Everyone is connected in some way to Check. They are all family—members of the Nation—black people who are employees of Check, townspeople and neighbors. By extension, they are all connected and care for each other.
Woven into the story is a history of the Trail of Tears. The history and traditions of the Cherokee Nation also are included. At a funeral in the story, the author writes, “The mourners were a large group of mixed blood people who shared a common history. They were neither Indian nor white, but both. And uniquely American.
The author was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize with her first book, “Maud’s Line.” She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Much of her story takes place on her family’s allotment land in the Arkansas River bottoms outside of Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma. Verble conducted extensive research in writing her book and has included some of the Cherokee language. Several of the characters are based on people her grandmother knew.
I thoroughly enjoyed “Cherokee America,” a book about an era I know little about. The writing and character development are perfect. This is a great read to take on vacation or to share with your book club. Enjoy!