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Excerpt from The Removes by Tatjana Soli, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Removes

by Tatjana Soli

The Removes by Tatjana Soli X
The Removes by Tatjana Soli
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2019, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Print Excerpt

THE FIRST REMOVE

Indian attack—Fighting alongside the men—The massacre—Family—Taken captive—The march

The thunder of the rifle inside the house so blasted Anne's ears that she forgot for a moment the reason for her father's firing it, so caught up was she in the physical pain of the noise. She cupped her palms over her ears to shelter them but too late. When she took her hands away, her hearing had fled, vanished so that events unfolded before her in eerie silence. From her mother's pious beliefs, she wondered briefly if this was a gift of God, this shielding deafness, but decided against such interpretation because if God had willingly allowed the sights before her eyes it would be blasphemy to his goodness. The silence proved both blessing and curse. Not the war cries of the Indians, nor the screams of her relatives in their death throes as they departed from this earth, had the power to frighten her, but the lack of sound endowed her sight with a magnified strength. The acts committed before her turned into visions burned on her mind's eye that she would revisit, voluntarily or not, for the rest of her days.

In the morning the men had left to work the fields, leaving the small group of homesteads unguarded except for old men, the blacksmith, and some stragglers, including her beau, Michael, who loitered in the communal barn with the hope of a stolen meeting with her.

A party of Cheyenne rode in, one warrior in the lead, waving a dirty white piece of cloth on a stick. Immediately her mother's face went slack with fear. The tribes had become habituated to handouts, and they demanded charity whether given freely or not. She hissed to Anne's six-year-old brother, Nevin, to run out the back.

"Be careful, don't be seen. Bring the men back! Quick!"

Anne's grandfather went out to offer the band provision and delay any possible aggression till the men were returned to defend the homestead. Anne watched from the window as he walked up to the leader and within seconds was surrounded by mounted warriors. Only the back of his graying head was visible above the ponies. It would be the last moment the world would appear safe to her. As quickly as she drew her next breath, an Indian behind him raised a hatchet even as he parleyed with the leader in front. Anne screamed as the blow came down, a bloom of horror. He staggered a moment from the impact, the circle of warriors still and calm, only mildly curious as he crumpled to the ground between their horses' feet.

Her father and some of the neighbors had run in through the back door, loaded down with rifles and bags of ammunition. In the part of Kansas they farmed, it was necessary to work the fields with hoe in one hand and rifle in the other, so the men had been ready to protect their families. The Indians already surrounded the other houses so that the men had no choice but stay and defend Anne's homestead before reaching their own. With one look outside, her father roughly pulled Anne from the window and directed her mother to gather the children against the back wall, low against the ground to avoid the ricochet of bullets. Her father's first firing, the one that deafened her, hit the warrior who killed her grandfather, the shot taking off the side of his head, and he slumped over and rolled off his horse. Within moments, as if his blood nourished the earth he fell on, fifty more equally fierce fighters sprang into view.

Anne pressed against her mother and sisters, her arms around Nevin to keep him from squirming away to join the men. Having sounded the alarm of the attack, he was filled with fearlessness and childish belief in his own invincibility. Anne closed her eyes. Again she saw the Indian's concave head, his face fierce as a hawk's, and then the dip of his body to earth. The darkness under her eyelids combined with the lack of sound to calm her. Did her grandfather share this same darkness with her? She pretended that this was a nightmare from which she could soon wake. Her mother poked her up.

Excerpted from The Removes by Tatjana Soli. Copyright © 2018 by Tatjana Soli. Excerpted by permission of Sarah Crichton Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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