• The Good: Historical fiction from the POV of a native female protagonist
  • The Bad: Depressing and lacking the magic of magical realism
  • The Literary: Author is a finalist for the Pulizer Prize

Two Feathers loves her job as a trick horse-diver. As a young Cherokee woman, she started out in a Wild West show before working temporarily for the Glendale Park Zoo in Nashville. She becomes friends with Hank Crawford, a wealthy, land-owning black man, in part because neither fit easily into the highly segregated society of 1920s Nashville. Soon, disaster strikes at one of Two’s shows, and strange things begin to happen.

This historical depiction of racisim, particulary towards native americans and blacks, is on point. However, it overshadows nearly everything else. Black men are beaten and lynched. The zoo is built on a Native American burial ground, desicrating the remains. Two and Crawford are second class citizens, and a white man who convinces himself he’s an Indian stalks Two. While none of this is surprising, it’s not particularly enjoyable. Also not particularly enjoyable is the deaths of several animals that die in succession after Two’s accident. Two’s suspiscions are aroused, and she eventually helps to uncover the mystery.

I like that the story also includes magical realism based on Cherokee mythology, specifically in regards to ghosts, but that part of the story feels disjointed and doesn’t tie much into the thematic elements.

Recommended for fans of historical literary fiction who are ready to read a story with lots of social justice issues.