Read advance reader review of A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power

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A Council of Dolls

A Novel

by Mona Susan Power

A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power X
A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power
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  • Published:
    Aug 2023, 304 pages


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  • Marcia C. (Jeffersonville, PA)
    An Argument for Kindness
    Mona Susan Power is a strong voice for her Native American People. Although a work of fiction, A Council of Dolls reads in part like an intensely written personal memoir describing the uprooting of Dakota children taken from their homes and sent to missionary schools for "reeducation" and how the damage done to those children and their tribes will affect their lives for generations to come. Out of this tragic story we are introduced to the lives of the women of this book Lillian, Cora and Jesse; to their joys, sorrows and relationships; and to their dolls Winona, Mae and Ethel. The dolls play an important role in the young girls lives. They are their comforters and the witnesses to their truth. The author has created a riveting narration weaving together the threads of the dolls' stories and those of their young owners.

    This is a book that is well worth reading. The author's voice sings out loud and clear through Jesse's words. While she minces no words when she describes the wrongs done to her people, she is very hopeful for a future where these wrongs may one day be redeemed.

    This book would provide lots of thoughtful discussion for book clubs. I couldn't help but think of William Kent Krueger's This Tender Land while I was reading A Council of Dolls. The authors' writing styles are very different, but I feel their writing comes from the same heart.
  • Mary G. (Lawrenceville, NJ)
    A Council of Dolls by Mona Susan Power
    If I were to tell a friend about this book, the Council of Dolls, I would tell them that I thought it was a very good book to read. It would be a very good book for book clubs to discuss. I have always been interested in Native American history. This book covers historical events that span from the 1900's to 2010 from the perspective of three young girls from each generation and their cherished dolls. In each generation the girls and their dolls witnessed the dismantling of their cultures, families and at times their mental stability. From the times of the Indian wars to the Indian schools to re-educate Native Americans into the "white man's way of life", to present day, Native Americans struggle to find a balance between two worlds. The dolls were that piece of culture that created a safe haven for them. The dolls were their beloved toy, the voice of reason, defender, advisor, their sanity, their healer and at times their only friend. Most important the dolls carried their history and culture forward. I think this book would be an excellent book for anyone interested in Native American Culture, The Indian Schools and Indian Wars.
  • Sheila B. (Danvers, MA)
    Very intense read. Highly recommend.
    I was so engaged with the characters in this book. It's the story of three generations of Native American girls, each telling their story in the first person, but also through their beloved dolls who are actually their alter egos. Their experiences were so raw, the dolls took a lot of the intensity. I felt the authenticity of their lives through their stories and, once again, was horrified at the abuse that any non-white American being suffered and how the history I learned as a young student in America was a huge lie. I highly recommend this book and look forward to future works from the author.
  • Karna B. (Long Beach, CA)
    The magic of dolls
    While a fictional account of the lives of three Indian girls spanning three generations, this book's strength lies in the research and personal experience shared by the author as she portrays the damage brought by Indian boarding schools. The trauma experienced and the lasting repercussions are softened by the presence of dolls who become a sounding board in dealing with the adversity in their lives. Beautiful prose, profound sentences, and a well-woven story. This is a must read.
  • Gina T. (Natick, MA)
    An Immersive and heart wrenching story
    I absolutely loved this book! I think I held my breath as I read.
    The difficult subject matter of collective and generational trauma was made personal with the magical voices of the dolls.
    Only recently have we read about the atrocities against indigenous people in our country. This was not anything taught at school or discussed in media until recently.
    This book beautifully tackles some of these tragic and horrific events.
    We must acknowledge truth in order to heal. We have learned the importance of sharing our stories and releasing the shame and guilt. The author has a spiritual gift that I found irresistible. She spoke to me. I can't recommend this novel highly enough!
  • Jeanne P. (Ennice, NC)
    A Special, Unique and Unforgettable Book !
    This is a special book for many reasons:

    1. It was written by a Native American woman about Native American women. (Unfortunately, too many "historical fiction" novelists try to create stories about other groups of people with no understanding of their lives.)

    2. The structure of the plot — narrated in four parts by three generations of women — starting with the youngest and moving back in time — was intriguing and kept my interest high. I especially appreciated that after reading about Sissy in the 1960s, then her mother Lillian in the 1930s, then her mother Cora in the 1900s, the plot moved full circle back to Sissy in the 2010s (now called Jesse). Jesse's part skillfully weaves most of the dangling threads from the first three parts together, but left me with food for thought.

    3. Daily life and historical events are described truthfully, with the POV of the main characters in their childhoods. This approach illuminated my understanding of and feelings about both the brutal devastation and the powerful spirit of our Indigenous People better than any textbook. For book groups unfamiliar with the history, I highly recommend reading this book as a fascinating introduction — it's a perfect blend of story-telling and truth-telling.

    4. Last, but certainly not least, the childhood dolls of each of the women informed and enhanced their stories in a most surprising and marvelous way. Although all of the other characters were important to adding dimension to this book, The Council of Dolls — Ethel, Mae and Winona were essential to making this a this unique novel that I will never forget!
  • Janice P. (South Woodstock, VT)
    Powerful Reading
    This absorbing novel is narrated by three generations of Native American girls and their cherished dolls, who "speak" to each of them out of their own suppressed inner wisdom, guiding and protecting them, absorbing the racial trauma that the girls cannot yet comprehend. Their stories span the 20th Century, focusing on the experience of Indian children removed from their families, sometimes for years, to attend boarding schools where their keepsakes will be destroyed and they will be forced to speak a new language, take on new names, wear new clothing and adopt a new, false identity. Resistance will be crushed. Some will not survive.

    Each girl's voice is distinct, each girl intuitive and precocious in her own way. Author Mona Susa Power manages the challenge of creating convincing young narrators while addressing a mature theme: the complexity of preserving tribal identity in a white world determined to criminalize it, the psychological damage that is done, and how that resonates from one generation to the next. Power wisely chooses to tell her story—the fictionalized story of her own mixed Lakota and Dakota family, with a connection to Sitting Bull—beginning with her own generation and moving backward in time. This allows her readers to find the connections between one character's troubling questions and the "answers" that lie waiting to be discovered in the past.

    Her writing is pure poetry. At the heart of this powerful novel is her belief that language itself is power. As one character, Cora, puts it, "They treat our language like a sickness so contagious it must be cut from our tongues…" For her granddaughter Jesse, as for the author, in her afterword, putting the truth of this part of history into words is powerful healing. And powerful reading!
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