The Empire of the Summer Moon was given to me by my husband’s boss’s wife (how’s that for a relationship tree). Her book club had read it and enjoyed it, which I was a bit surprised to hear given how violent most of the history presented in the book was, but it is an excellent and compelling read.
The book tells the history and story of the Comanche people, mostly focusing on those in Texas. The author manages to bring to life the struggles of the tribe and the pioneers, and doesn’t flinch in portraying just how violent and terrible those conflicts were.
The name of the book is taken from the Comanche’s favorite time to come raiding, when the moon was big and bright.
In particular, the author focuses on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the white girl captured by the Comanches as a child and whose son, Quanah Parker, the other main character of the book, becomes the last great war chief and leader of her new people. Her story is what the great John Wayne movie The Searchers is based on, although she didn’t have the happy ending that the girl in the movie did.
Mary, the Boyd Widow’s aunt, is based on survivors and stories from this history. She’s a survivor of one of the last Comanche raids in Texas, when almost everyone had been rounded up and put on a reservation to die.
One thing about writing about the early 1930’s that amazes me is how recent some of America’s “ancient” history is then. There were still Civil War vets around, and many more people who had survived being born into slavery. Native Americans hadn’t been on reservations for all that long, and there were survivors of those pioneer days around as well, especially in the North Texas/Oklahoma area.
The mix of people and monumental society shifts in such a short time is breath-taking, which is part of why I love the era.