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In Calamity's Wake [Hardcover]

Natalee Caple
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 25 2013

Set in the badlands of the North American west in the late 1800s, In Calamity’s Wake tells the story of orphaned Miette’s quest to find her mother, the notorious Calamity Jane.

Miette is reluctant to meet the woman who abandoned her—whom she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker and exhibition shooter—but she sets out nonetheless across a landscape peopled with madwomen, thieves, minstrels and ghosts, many of whom add a thread to the story of her famous mother.

Interspersed with Miette’s story are the stories of Jane as told in legend, history books, dime store novels and by the woman herself. As Miette makes her way to Deadwood, South Dakota, history and myth collide to create a picture of a remarkable woman whoshattered the expectations of her time, and a daughter who must confront the truth of her past. As in Billy the Kid or HBO’s Deadwood, In Calamity’s Wake blends fiction with real conversations and events to transport us, through vividly crafted atmosphere and seductive storytelling, to a side of the Wild West we’ve never seen before.

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"Echoes of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje and Away by Amy Bloom reverberate in Natalee Caple's brilliant poetic novel about the daughter of Calamity Jane seeking her mother." ? Susan Swan, author of The Western Light ()

About the Author

NATALEE CAPLE is the author of four books of fiction and two books of poetry, including the novel The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World; the short story collection The Heart Is Its Own Reason, which has been optioned for film; the poetry collection A More Tender Ocean, which was nominated for a Gerald Lampert Award; and the novel Mackerel Sky. She lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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Customer Reviews

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2.0 out of 5 stars not so hot May 16 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
disappointingly thin for a women so remarkable and large: I just kept wanting more and it didn't deliver the guts I wanted and she deserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best reads this year May 11 2013
By A. Reader - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well researched, well constructed, well written, this novel is also a deeply felt meditation on connection and longing.
The story begins with the 3rd person narration of Martha's (Calamity Jane's) beginnings. Next, we hear from Miette, Martha's daughter, who she gave as an infant to a travelling bishop to raise, which he did, and well. His dying words to Miette told her who her mother was, and to find her. From there we alternate, more or less, between the two odysseys, which occasional interruptions by other characters or newspaper reports from the day. Gradually, the sad story of Calamity Jane and all the loss in her life is revealled, as Miette comes closer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Debut Novel Sept. 17 2013
By Holly Weiss - Published on
In Calamity's Wake is a well-researched historical fiction novel combining pleasurable reading with great depth. I loved this book and appreciated the grace and honesty with which it was written. It is a great story, but is worth reading simply for the beautiful prose. This meditation on being lost and belonging will pull your heartstrings as it paints a convincing picture of The Old West. The chapters are short, the reading easy, but the storytelling is fiercely inventive. Natalie Caple embeds history well into the narrative, such as when Edison used his x-ray machine to locate a bullet in President McKinley's stomach.

The book opens with a first person narrative by Miette. She heads for the Badlands of the American Northwest in search of her mother, Martha Canary (Infamous Calamity Jane). This is a deathbed wish by the bishop who raised her (her mother gave Miette to him after giving birth.) Miette's father, the bishop, teaches her great things--that Indians are not savage, but perhaps the Europeans were, that children are not immoral at birth, but possess great potential, that the poor are not to be looked down upon. The quest to find her mother is interrupted by chance encounters with crazy people and constantly tinged with longing for her father who just died.

Big-boned Martha (Calamity Jane) was six feet tall, strong and square. She could shoe a horse at age 8, ate only one orange in her life, and favored a gun given to her by Buffalo Bill. Always kind to her little brother, Elijah, her restlessness is evidenced by:

* Involvement in opium running and was a highwayman
* She was in and out of jail many times
* She put an ad in the newspaper to her estranged husband that she would scalp him alive if she saw him.
* She had a child (Miette) by Buffalo Bill, whom she could out- drink under the table.

By the same token, she was sensitive and caring. She could ride like the wind and loved horses. She carried a Chinese man down a mountain after a grizzly ripped off his face and took him to a doctor. She leaves her daughter, Miette, a letter telling her story so that her child would know the truth. Calamity Jane's letter to Miette is based on Jane's biography, as noted in the Author's notes.

An example of the beautiful prose: "There are points where time accordions. It is as if the past, the present and the future are pressed together in a concertina, every minute toughing and then every minute open to be viewed."

Bravo to Natalee Caple for her stunning debut novel, In Calamity's Wake.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dispossessed of the West Dec 22 2013
By Jeff M. Schwehn - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This short, powerful, phantasmagorical novel of the American West is replete with fine phrases, folk songs, and mythical narratives that create an acute sense of the almost hallucinatory experience of the taming of our western frontier. Ms. Caple's simultaneous focus on the legendary and the lived provides a depth of imaginative understanding that enriches our all-too-often, two-dimensional perception, shaped by movies and popular novels, of the "winning of the West". In Calamity's wake rides the spiritual and physical sacrifices of the dispossessed - orphans, women, Native Americans, former slaves, criminals, foreign nationals - that fueled America's journey to greatness. How fitting that Ms. Caple has given such artful voice to the people who desperately created the foundation of modern America.
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it June 7 2014
By Dianne and Ken Duncan - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is a sugar coated version of the goings on in the old west or what happened in South Dakota. I visited Deadwood and saw her grave on Boot Hill and this book brought back all those memories.
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting May 14 2014
By wendy tuttle - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Nice background on someone everyone knows, but not really. Nice depiction of the "west" and the characters of that era, enjoyed the read
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