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In Calamity's Wake Hardcover – Apr 2 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (April 2 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1443406708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1443406703
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 18.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #338,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Echoes of <em>Billy the Kid</em> by Michael Ondaatje and <em>Away</em> by Amy Bloom reverberate in Natalee Caple's brilliant poetic novel about the daughter of Calamity Jane seeking her mother."

– Susan Swan, author of <em>The Western Light</em>

“Haunting and hallucinatory, Natalee Caplee’s <em>In Calamity’s Wake</em> is a rich collage of sweeping myth and searing historical detail. Packed with the requisite big skies, barroom raconteurs and bullet wounds of an epic western, the story of Miette and Calamity Jane is also personal and timeless, echoing our own, futile attempts to know and understand even the people we love. This novel will have you asking 'What is true? What is legend?' long after the fire is out and the embers gone cold.”

– Miranda Hill, author of <em>Sleeping Funny</em>

"Eloquent, earthy and evocative, this gorgeously-written, dream-like novel is a delight. Caple's voice is enchanting and her perspective on the mythology of Calamity Jane enthralling."

– Lauren B. Davis, author of <em>Our Daily Bread</em>

Praise for Mackerel Sky:

“Breathlessly good.” — THE WASHINGTON POST

“[A] taut, poetic thriller that probes notions of power, sexuality, and morality. . . . A story with not only legs, but bone and sinew, blood, and soul.” — QUILL & QUIRE

“Scintillating . . . hyper-erotic, beautiful, and hilariously funny. . . . This entire novel sparks with an erotic, breathless tension that will pull you to the end and leave you wanting more.” — EDMONTON JOURNAL

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

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Caple is a writer of great imagination but also wide intellectual interests: her work is rollicking, feminist and poetic (with a surreaist tint) all at once. This is a cinematic book, both historical and contemporary.
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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) HASH(0xa40c37ec) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3b78738) 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 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3b78984) out of 5 stars Stunning Debut Novel Sept. 17 2013
By Holly Weiss - Published on
Format: Hardcover
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
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3b78bc4) 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa3b78d68) out of 5 stars Miette, meet your mother Martha... March 20 2016
By EpicFehlReader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
According to author Natalee Caple, this story was inspired by a claim Calamity Jane herself is said to have made that she bore James Butler (aka "Wild Bill") Hickock a child (without his knowledge, I'm guessing, if the story is true) but shortly after the birth had given it up for adoption. So what might have become of this child? In Calamity's Wake theorizes on this. In Caple's story, Martha Canary's (aka "Calamity Jane") daughter is adopted by a man of the cloth, who nicknames the girl Miette (the girl's birth name is Martha, after her mother). Years later, when Miette's adoptive father is on his deathbed, he implores her to go and find her mother, get to know her, make peace with their past, etc. Knowing that her mother is the infamous sharpshooter Calamity Jane, Miette knows the stories around the woman and has no real personal interest in getting to know her. Still, to honor her father's request and memory, Miette decides to go on this journey to seek out her mother's whereabouts, hoping in the end to discover why Calamity Jane cut ties with her child all those years ago.

The bulk of this quick read (223 pages, harback) is made up of Miette's travels through Badlands territory of the North American West, where she meets some definitely colorful, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. One claims to be her brother, one even claims to be Calamity herself but Miette is soon unconvinced by the woman's serious mental instability. Still, Miette suffers physical harm from some of these unsavory sorts but does eventually reach her destination, in a Family Circus sort of way.

I really enjoyed the early chapters of this story, then it got a little problematic for me. {Reading the author's afterword and discovering that those early chapters were heavily inspired by Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo has me really curious to pick up that book now.} For some reason, I struggled to like Miette. It's not that she was whiney or selfish or anything like that, I just found her to be a boring, flat character. All her most interesting moments are because of the other person she's interacting with. If she were a real person, I don't know that I could chill with her very long, what with her way of crafting a 3 page poem on intense ear pain or talking to a boil on her foot like it's a traveling companion. Well... I guess, in a way it was... but still. The girl's quirks are a tough sell.

I also struggled with the way the novel was laid out in general. I feel like I would have enjoyed it a bit better if both Martha's and Miette's perspectives were done in alternating first person POV. Having Martha's in a distanced 3rd person telling was a bit too cold for me. Especially when there were glimpses of a pretty cool story there -- scrappy little Martha learning to fend for herself in the presence of negligent parents; slightly older Martha playing with wolves; Martha's bond with her brother, even while he's in prison. There is a bit near the end where Martha's story does switch to first person, but it's in a letter Martha has transcribed for Miette (as Martha was said to be largely illiterate). That letter was one of my favorite parts in the story and sort of confirmed for me that yeah, I think I would have enjoyed her story more in 1st person. I also liked learning that this letter's contents were largely based off of Calamity Jane's own autobiography pamphlet she had sold and printed for a little extra income near the end of her life.

So all that being said, I think my main issue was just how the novel in general flowed. It was a pretty jerky read in that respect. I kept trying to figure out why it felt all over the place. Then there was the note on content at the back of the book: "A Note On Pastiche Sources: This novel is a work of metahistorical fiction." It's a what now? I wasn't familiar with this term. After sifting through pages and pages of websites hoping for an explanation, I am reminded of a quote I once saw attributed to Albert Einstein: "If you can not successfully explain it to a child, you do not know your subject well enough." SO many pages of me reading and STILL being left with the inner thought of "Yeah, I get that but WTH DOES IT MEAN?!" So, this is the general idea I grasped after all that reading --

Metahistory is a concept originally coined back in the 1970s by a guy by the name of Hayden White, who wrote a nearly 500 page book on the topic that, as I see it, a lot of people like to reference but still don't completely understand. It seems that White liked to look at "the history of history", or the theories and philosophies behind how history develops. Metahistory also looks at the idea that history has a basis in storytelling. Before humans nailed down the whole "write it down for posterity" thing, we learned our histories through oral history -- friends and relatives sitting around a fire telling us about that one time when. Such history can be influenced by the storyteller's personal history or life struggles at the time, their choice of where to embellish or omit facts, economic or political conditions of the time, etc. White uses this idea to challenge the idea that history is concrete and factual. He instead says that there are other factors at hand that make our collective history more pliable / open for interpretation than traditional historians would have us believe. Metahistory, I gather, is meant to be used as a way to challenge or critique the way a certain time period or historical figure has been traditionally portrayed.

So, thanks to the author on peaking my curiosity enough to further educate myself on that front. Also, I found the ending of In Calamity's Wake pretty touching. This little book had its good moments and I guess I would recommend it for a try out if it's a historical period that interests you. In the end though it wasn't my cup of tea so much.

And yes, I kept picturing the Calamity Jane from HBO's Deadwood. Sorry, couldn't help it!
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.

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