My husband and I spent the first two years of our marriage working and living in a small town in South Dakota. It was near the Rosebud Reservation. There were events in that area that were difficult to understand. After a bar fight, the White participant was taken by ambulance to the community hospital. The Native American participant waited an hour for the ambulance to come from the reservation and take him back to the reservation for medical treatment. Linda S. Clare’s novel A Sky Without Stars triggered some of those memories for me.
This book is set in Phoenix, Arizona in 1951. The plot explored the life of a Native American single mom, Frankie, trying to support herself and her son. She has few skills and no education. The poverty is grinding, without enough food. The book affected me strongly because it showed what life is like when there are no safety nets. Frankie had many bad things happen to her and she really had no place to turn.
Circumstances were difficult for Frankie; but I felt like the phrase “No social acumen whatsoever” fitted her perfectly. She would always say exactly what she thought, often making the situation worse for herself. I could not help but wonder if she had been White could she have been outspoken and not suffered the same consequences?
Clare clearly laid out the dilemma for Native Americans – trying to fit into society and still not abandon their culture. The problem with alcoholism was widespread and Frankie had both an alcoholic father and husband. I have not lived near a reservation for many years and I do not know what the situation is like today. Back in the 1950’s life was difficult – especially for a single mother. When I lived in South Dakota in the 1960’s life was difficult. Have things improved at all? This is the question I am left with.
A Sky Without Stars is not always an easy read. I found myself worried about Frankie and her son. This is (among many other things) a love story and I really wondered if Frankie’s relationship with her male friend would ever work out. The book does make the reader think about issues that have been with us for generations. The obvious question is have things gotten any better?
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the Book:
Will the Lakota Star Quilt she is making help Frankie sew a new future of happiness?Frankie Chasing Bear is caught between cultures. She wants to raise her son Harold to revere his Lakota heritage, but she also thinks he will need to learn the white man’s ways to succeed. After the untimely death of her husband, Frankie joins the U.S. Government’s Relocation Program and moves to Arizona. There she begins sewing a Lakota Star pattern quilt for Harold with tribal wisdom sung, sewn, and prayed into it.
A bed without a quilt is like a sky without stars, but neither the quilt—nor her new life—comes easily to Frankie. Nick Vandergriff, for instance, is the last man Frankie wants to trust. He’s half-Lakota but Christian, and Frankie can see no good coming from that faith after her own parents were forced to convert at an Indian school. Can Nick convince Frankie that white men and Christians aren’t all bad? And will Frankie learn that love is the most important ingredient—for her son’s quilt and life itself?
About the Author:
Linda S. Clare is an award-winning author and coauthor of several books and has also published many essays, stories, and poems in publications including The Christian Reader, The Denver Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Born in Arizona, Linda and her husband now make their home in Eugene, Oregon, where Linda has taught college-level creative writing classes, and writes, edits, and mentors other writers. She also is a frequent writing conference presenter, a church retreat leader, and mom to four grown children and five wayward cats.