Part Native American lore, part ecological treatise, part mystical odyssey, and, perhaps, part autobiography, Black's debut novel leads her readers along unexpected paths. Rebecca grows up in western Kansas in the 1950s, moves to Chicago, and becomes a successful journalist, but behind this normalcy lies a moody, nomadic soul. As a child she communes with Gentle Wind, her "spirit sister" who lived on her family's land a century earlier. Rebecca loses touch with Gentle Wind but keeps her fierce allegiance to the plains. Whenever she returns home, Rebecca is angered at the changes time has wrought, giving Black numerous chances to rail against cattle feedlots, overirrigated fields, and strip mining. Interspersed chapters written in the voice of Gentle Wind recount the great buffalo slaughter from 1865 to 1875 and the gradual demise of the Plains Indians, culminating in their removal to an Oklahoma reservation. Black has packed a few extraneous side plots into her debut, but the end result is a poignant family saga and an enlightening history lesson. Deborah Donovan
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