Yesterday, I had the joy of sharing my ruminations on behalf of the second novel penned by Ms Chatlien which steps through the threshold of time and resides inside the footsteps of a woman who lived with a courageous heart and a fortitude of faith during one of the most arduous situations anyone could face – living captive during a conflict involving Native Americans and the fallout of a missing payment owed to them which would have provided means to live on throughout the Winter and coming months instead of facing food insecurity and the horrors of death through hunger and starvation.
Similarly, it was my honour to read this author’s debut The Ambitious Madame Boneparte wherein I felt an equally riveting attachment to Betsy Boneparte! Three years separate the two narratives but the critical eye given to the details of etching out a realistic portrait of these women’s lives is a credit to the creative eye for detail and biographical research embraced by Ms Chatlien. If you’ve missed my review for her latest (Blood Moon) let me share an overview of what I posted on my review – as this will give you a precursor of insight into why this narrative was such a convicting story to read:
about finding my spirit in sync with sarah:
Sarah is not afraid to share the realities of her marriage, her duties as a mother or her life on the prairies of Minnesota where tensions between the settlers and the Sioux are quite strenuous due to how the Sioux felt they were being cheated out of what they were due (in regards to payment) which put Sarah and her young family at risk. She has a calming sense of center in her spirit – she might have lurches of anxiety and the fears which assault anyone who was living in such a precarious time of ‘peace’ but she finds her will to stay on target with her duties and it’s how she puts her worries into her work which I think helped her the most.
Sarah was such a tall woman – six feet! I had to smile reading about her height, as the way in which she carried herself, you wouldn’t have guessed her height! In some ways, as we first get to know Sarah she doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in herself which I think is attributed to how she grew up and how she feels indifferent to those who have more education or had more opportunities to do more with their lives than she was allowed. Despite her insecurities – what is quite incredible is what she is able to accomplish, despite her fears and the obstacles soon to be standing in her path.
Sarah is a God-fearing woman – taking her faith seriously at all times, turning to prayer and seeking solitude to understand the harder issues of the day. Through these introspective musings we see Sarah twisting over the hardest aspects of faith, where not everything is understood as it is lived nor can all problems have a ready resolution. Her faith is tested quite often but she turns inward to seek understanding and mercy or grace for her own transgressions where she fears she has erred on the wrong side of her beliefs.
I truly loved how Ms Chatlien approached giving us a way into Sarah’s life – she took a very direct route, dropping us into Sarah’s life on the very fringe of the uprising, where things start to happen quite quickly. There were little nudges of insight of how Sarah’s view of the Sioux differed from her neighbours and her husband John whilst there were still personal impressions which Sarah was contemplating might not fit in step with her walk of faith. Chatlien added layers of depth and centreing to Sarah – to give us a more exploratory experience of her psychological state and the intuitive approach she took to guiding herself through trying times of adversity.
One thing which is a strong credit to Ms Chatlien’s passion for taking on these women in history is how she presents a realistic image of their lives. She holds nothing back – she let’s you into their life bit by bit – laying bare the facts of their days and how they would fill those hours either through work, duty or the intimate moments with their spouse. She sought to find a way to give these woman dimension in the present by re-tracing their footsteps in the past and I believe she’s done this twice over now and will continue to find the hidden voices who are clamouring for a writer like her to take up their stories and give them the freedom to be seen at long last.
-quoted from my review of Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale
Throughout my conversation with Ms Chatlien, I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the heart of what inspires her to tell these heart-capturing stories of women whose lives can still inspire us today. I found equal inspiration by reading both Betsy and Sarah’s Historical Biographies as they were told through Chatlien’s narratives. When you can dive into the soul of a living person who lived whilst embracing everything they saw as they lived as readily and as real as they did themselves, we start to draw empathy out of their experiences and find what resonates out of their life experiences which leaves a striking impression on us; these many generations lateron.
I asked some deeper questions too about perspectives and opinions inter-related to the stories themselves whilst allowing Ms Chatlien to share a bit about her writerly process to pen the stories which motivate her own spirit to create. She revealled she has survived Breast Cancer in our conversation, and I am at a loss to remember if I had known this at the time I first crossed paths with her in  however, to the best of my knowledge, I did not know of this health crisis affecting her at that time. I definitely understood why she is appreciative of living in our era of time for the advancements in modern medicine; not just for surviving Cancer but for overcoming Stroke such as my father’s journey these past nine months.
I also understood her hesitation to reveal too much about her current writing project even though I admit, I have my curiosity piqued! In some ways, I think Mrs Madison still qualifies as ‘unknown’ from our historical perspectives as the bits of her life Ms Chatlien wants to highlight are not part of the well-known bits all of us might have come across at one point or another whilst studying American History or the US Presidents in school.
Remember – the best way to enjoy the conversations I present to you here on Jorie Loves A Story is to brew your favourite cuppa, settle into a comfy chair and gleam new insight into a writer you may or may not have come across previously!
Southern Minnesota, August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as the Sioux fight to drive white settlers from their ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her young son and baby daughter are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, who intends to murder them. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises to protect the family. Chaska shelters them in his mother’s tepee, but with emotions running so high among both Indians and whites, the danger only intensifies. As she struggles to protect herself and those she loves, Sarah is forced to choose between doing what others expect of her and following her own deep beliefs.
Converse via: #HistFic, #HistoricalFiction + #BioFic & #BloodMoon