Summary and book reviews of The Removes by Tatjana Soli

The Removes

by Tatjana Soli

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

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

As the first wave of pioneers travel westward to settle the American frontier, two women discover their inner strength when their lives are irrevocably changed by the hardship of the wild west.

Spanning the years of the first great settlement of the West, The Removes tells the intertwining stories of fifteen-year-old Anne Cummins, frontierswoman Libbie Custer, and Libbie's husband, the Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer. When Anne survives a surprise attack on her family's homestead, she is thrust into a difficult life she never anticipated - living among the Cheyenne as both a captive and, eventually, a member of the tribe. Libbie, too, is thrown into a brutal, unexpected life when she marries Custer. They move to the territories with the U.S. Army, where Libbie is challenged daily and her worldview expanded: the pampered daughter of a small-town judge, she transforms into a daring camp follower. But when what Anne and Libbie have come to know - self-reliance, freedom, danger - is suddenly altered through tragedy and loss, they realize how indelibly shaped they are by life on the treacherous, extraordinary American plains.

With taut, suspenseful writing, Tatjana Soli tells the exhilarating stories of Libbie and Anne, who have grown like weeds into women unwilling to be restrained by the strictures governing nineteenth-century society. The Removes is a powerful, transporting novel about the addictive intensity and freedom of the American frontier.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Spanning the years of the first great settlement of the West, The Removes tells the intertwining stories of fifteen-year-old Anne Cummins, frontierswoman Libbie Custer, and Libbie's husband, the Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer. When Anne survives a surprise attack on her family's homestead, she is thrust into a difficult life she never anticipated—living among the Cheyenne as both a captive and, eventually, a member of the tribe. Libbie, too, is thrown into a brutal, unexpected life when she marries Custer. They move to the territories with the U.S. Army, where Libbie is challenged daily and her worldview expanded: the pampered daughter of a small-town judge, she transforms into a daring camp follower. But when what Anne ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Removes.
You can see the full discussion here.


Anne tells her aunt Lydia that she misses her children. Were you surprised by Lydia's reaction and her advice?
I basically agree with Cynthia. It just slipped out but Lydia was very different than Josiah and had suspected, with empathy, that Anne had children from her capture. The prejudice against Indians at that time was terrible, as was the white man's ... - bonnieb

Compare attitudes about Custer then and today. In what ways do you think Custer was complicit with our government's treatment of American Indians? In what ways was he a product of his time?
In reading numerous nonfiction works regarding Custer, it seems to me that he had an inordinate ambition. His hoped for result from the military campaign that ended for him and his command at Little Big Horn was to have overwhelming victory which ... - BuffaloGirl

Do you sympathize with Custer's difficulty adjusting to an obscure military life postwar? What do you think of his reinvention of himself as an Indian fighter?
War was the one thing that Custer excelled at. He came from poverty and was looked down upon by the elite in D.C. and New York. Nothing came of his attempts to attain a job from the network of people he met back east. They just liked to hear his ... - bonnieb

Do you think anyone in the novel shows great vision?
I think the one with the greatest vision was General Custer himself. He had to deploy all the military tactics he learned at West Point throughout the book. He seemed to be able to picture an entire battle in his mind before his forays. Obviously,... - christineb

Do you think Golden Buffalo was wise to try to learn the ways of his enemies? Foolish? Is there any way he could have done better to help his people?
While I consider Golden Buffalo wise, it is always difficult to play two sides against the middle. I think the person who said that he was a example of 'keeping your friends close and your enemies closer' is correct but he was a Quisling for leaving... - bonnieb

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Removes will appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those interested in America's Old West and the conquering of the frontier. This well-written novel would make a great book group selection as well; Soli's attention to historical detail is a stand-out, and many of the questions she raises about the settling of The Great Plains remain relevant today.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The clash of cultures is Soli's grand theme, and here she drives home her message that the winners are no more worthy than the losers, and that 'not even brotherhood was enough to safeguard people who had what others coveted.'

Library Journal
Finely crafted, this moving novel viscerally depicts the brutality of the Westward Expansion and the universal quest for freedom, while reminding readers of the human cost of greed.

Kirkus Reviews
A sober and memorable take on the American West: its opportunities for men to wage war against each other and the land and the devastation the men's ambition wrought upon women's lives.

Booklist
Starred Review. With visceral, vibrant language, Soli paints a stark portrait of the violence, hardship, and struggles that characterized the American West."

Author Blurb Vaddey Ratner, PEN/Hemingway Finalist, author of In the Shadow of the Banyan
The Removes is a stunning, vivid portrayal of captivity and freedom, and of wars waged on the landscapes and peoples of the American frontier. Tatjana Soli's writing is so visceral and evocative, one feels transported to that moment when history is forged. At once intimate and sweeping, unflinching and compassionate, The Removes is a magnificent read.

Author Blurb Peter Cozzens, author of The Earth is Weeping:The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West
Tatjana Soli's The Removes is a rousing, thoroughly engrossing novel of the Indian Wars in the tradition of the best of western fiction....a tale of impeccable verisimilitude that is at once a tightly interwoven narrative and a kaleidoscopic picture of the Indian Wars of the American West. Readers will emerge with a keen appreciation of this tragic American epoch.

Author Blurb Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Tatjana Soli braids a beautiful and harrowing tale of Custer, his wife, and a fifteen-year-old girl held captive out on the western plains. Intimate and panoramic all at once, this is a novel of transformation and self-reliance, a book that powerfully questions what we know of women on the American frontier.

Author Blurb Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen, long-listed for the National Book Award
The Removes is as beautiful a novel as I've read in some time...Tatjana Soli's writing is spare, lyrical, haunting, and heartbreaking, and countless images from this book will stay with me forever: the harsh majesty of the plains, the 'sheer animal joy' of horses running into battle, and the bravado of Custer's long, meandering march to his ruin.

Author Blurb Meg Waite Clayton, Langum Prize-honored author of The Race for Paris
Tatjana Soli weaves a stark western landscape, a national tragedy, and intimate portrayals of two pioneer women into a poignant and powerful tapestry of identity and belonging that will break your heart. I absolutely loved The Removes.

Author Blurb Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls' Rising, a finalist for the National Book Award
Tatjana Soli's The Removes breathes new life into a story I thought I already knew inside out - the tale of George Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a century-old icon of American history, and exhaustively covered by Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star. Any writer entering these lists must be both bold and strong, and Soli proves herself all that.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award
Soli's new novel focuses on General Custer, the frontier, and the Indian wars. This is a western, but a modern one - beautifully detailed and carefully researched, completely free of the questionable mythologies that sometimes characterize the genre. A vivid, sometimes harrowing, but always riveting read.

Reader Reviews

Veronica

Historical fiction at its best
I love historical american history and couldn't wait to get started on this novel. It was very good and I couldn't put it down. The author does a fabulous job on describing Custer and his soldiers, his wife and the captured women by the Indians. ...   Read More

Peggyt

The Removes
I too had mixed feelings about this book. It was interesting to read about Libbie Custer but with a historical novel of this type it is hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. My favorite part of this book was actually the illustrations. I ...   Read More

Nancy Geyer

The Removes
I confess I have mixed feelings about this book. Generally speaking I don't like reading fiction that focuses on historical figures because I feel that the authors of such books manipulate reality to suit their own purposes. Such was the case with ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Sitting Bull

Sitting BullTatjana Soli's historical fiction novel, The Removes, culminates at Custer's Last Stand, a battle between the U.S. 7th Cavalry and Native American tribes that took place near the Little Bighorn River in Montana in 1876. Sitting Bull was the chief of the entire Sioux nation at the time, and his vision of success over the soldiers spurred his warriors on to victory.

Sitting Bull was born in 1831 in the Grand River Valley (now South Dakota). He was a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe, which in turn is part of the Sioux Nation. He was named Jumping Badger at birth, but also nicknamed Hunkesi – "Slow" – because of his thoughtful, deliberate nature, evident at an early age. At age 14 he joined his first war party against ...

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