In Calamity's Wake Hardcover – Mar 25 2013
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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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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.
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