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The Night Birds

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  774 ratings  ·  157 reviews
The intertwining story of three generations of German immigrants to the Midwest—their clashes with slaveholders, the Dakota uprising and its aftermath—is seen through the eyes of young Asa Senger, named for an uncle killed by an Indian friend. It is the unexpected appearance of Asa’s aunt Hazel, institutionalized since shortly after the mass hangings of thirty-eight Dakota ...more
Hardcover, Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  774 ratings  ·  157 reviews


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Diane Barnes
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you feel the need to jump into a time machine and travel back in time to Minnesota in 1862, during the great Sioux uprising that left hundreds of German settlers and Dakota Indians dead, just open the pages of this book. It actually spans the years between 1846-1876, with an epilogue that takes us to 1921. Asa Senger is a young boy just on the brink of manhood when his Aunt Hazel comes to stay with them. Her tales of her childhood enthrall him, and reaches a place deep inside him that changes ...more
Cathrine ☯️
4 🤕 🤕 🤕 🤕
I have a picture of my great great grandparents and their nine children. They immigrated to Minnesota from Europe to claim land and farm shortly after the time period of this story. They look severe, unhappy, and worn out. I bet they had some stories to tell.

Little house on the prairie this most definitely is not. If there was any romantic notion left in me about coming of age or homesteading in late 1800s America it has been chewed up, spit out, and consumed by locusts.
A worthy and bru
...more
karen
Mar 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: greg who is afraid of biiiirds
this isnt a book that hides its secrets well - but it still tells a good story. its not as laced with the grimms tales at the jacket copy would suggest, and it gets a little muddy in places; the tone is uneven - sometimes rushed, sometimes drawn-out, but its a good read and a great first book.
Ned
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is some of the finest fiction I’ve read from a new writer for me. Thanks to the dear departed Kirk and my friends for helping me find this author. I’ll read his body of work now and give this one. Full review later.

This is the style of novel that works well for me. I can learn some real history and the characters are rich, entertaining and seem authentic for the time. Especially I loved the visit from the James brothers, as I recall their misadventure in Minnesota, and they have a history i
...more
Wyndy
4.5 superb stars. I’ve read some outstanding books the past few months, but nothing has grabbed and twisted my emotions like this one: hate, love, horror, sympathy, sorrow - immense sorrow. Nothing has immersed me so completely in a dark chapter of history that I knew so little about: the Dakota War Of 1862, which resulted in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The book begins with the birth of Asa Senger, now fourteen and a third generation Midwest settler. Hazel Senger, Asa’s aunt, has
...more
Laura
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As another friend has said this book was a journey and one worth taking. This was a perfect historic fictional account of the US Dakota Conflict (Great Sioux war of 1862). I don’t know how the author could have written this any better. This one will hit you in the feels. Highly recommend!!!
Ellen E. Baldwin (Quest Reviews)
Okay... ahem... full disclosure: I'm going to do my level BEST to get you to read this little, unknown piece of historical fiction. Be prepared.

It's crazy how this book first popped on my radar. It was either 2009 or 2010 and I was browsing the stacks at my local library. I picked up The Night Birds because I got a good feeling from it, like some sort of wacky, mystical book-sniffer. Two days later, I'd finished the novel and felt like I'd just stepped off an emotional tilt-a-whirl.

I've only eve
...more
Miss_otis
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it

14-year-old Asa Senger is intrigued when his mysterious Aunt Hazel, recently released from an asylum, comes to stay with his family in frontier Minnesota. Come to find out, the townspeople say Hazel is/was an Indian lover (physically and simply emotionally), and they’re none too welcoming, much like Asa’s mother. Hazel’s not very forthcoming with details of her past, but little by little, Asa gathers his family’s history from her, and boy, is there history.

I liked this book a lot. I’m a big fan
...more
Tina
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kirk,

This was the last book you gave our little group to read before your life was taken on the side of the road after a day of sailing your treasured boat. I am sorry our group never got to read and discuss The Night Birds with you. I feel like you chose this book for us because you had read another book by Thomas Maltman and you were impressed by his work. I wonder, did you know we were all destined to love this novel? Did you know how epic and emotional it would be?

While the Civil War was bre
...more
Kelly
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caroline Bartels
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was SOOOO good, so intense, just really, really well done! Maybe it's because I'm from South Dakota and grew up in the area and know all the places to which Maltman refers, and I'm half-German and grew up knowing all the German and Norwegian folklore and stories of settlers, this book really struck a chord. I still read all of the Little House books about every 10 years since when I first finished the series as a 5th grader, and now I'm in my mid-40s, but there was so much of that story her ...more
Tbone
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tbone by: SJSU Campus Reading Program
“…the night birds, der nacht vogel, birds that led humans out of sorrow.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which discussed life in the perspective of both Native Americans and European immigrants during this country’s early years of turmoil. In occupying such a close proximity the groups were bound to intermingle. Unfortunately, stereotypes have the ability to influence hatred without providing a reason to loathe the particular person. The fear held for those who were different but also an overcom
...more
Lynne
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone..to know what came before
Recommended to Lynne by: Francie Ricks
This is a wrenching but beautifully written tragedy about the conflict between the Dakota Sioux and the American army and settlers. It is based on accounts from both the Dakota and the Europeans who ended up in Minnesota in the mid 1800s and is focused on the story of a girl with the gift of healing who cannot stop what is to come. The use of dreams to foretell and understand is masterful as is the recurring image of the crows. I love the final scene where something stops a young boy from throwi ...more
Ashley Olson
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Another (though I should say the first) incredible, beautiful novel from Mr. Maltman. I was so stunned and awed by the first I read, "Little Wolves," that I immediately read this book. Growing up on the plains of Minnesota where "The Night Birds" took place, I now have a much deeper sense of this buried period of not only Minnesotan, but U.S. history. Maltman so gorgeously depicts both the Native American and pioneer sides of historical events and people I barely remember learning about, like Wo ...more
Anastasia
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this more stars I would. Fantastic book and a fantastic person to know.
Dorothy Reed
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
"There is beauty in devastation." A beautifully written novel about a tragic and pivotal period in American history. While most of the country was gripped by the tragedy of the Civil War, the western settlements were soaked in the blood of a different war. Night Birds relates the tale of German immigrants to the Midwest, told through 3 generations of the Senger family who strive for the American dream on a plague-ridden parcel of prairie. Across the river their neighbors, the Dakota, strive to m ...more
brianna
Jan 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved Little Wolves by Maltman and I really liked this. It appears that it was well-researched, though I don't know enough about the history of the Dakotas to definitively say. I will say that every character was created with depth and Maltman avoided stereotypes of the "noble savage" and "white saviour" effectively. I think the most striking aspect of the novel was the palpable tensions between white settler and Dakotas as war and conflict begin to brew, and how this influences the rel ...more
Ken Oder
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The pace of the first half of the novel is slow and the narrative technique, hindered by too many abrupt changes of the point of view and shifts back and forth in time, obscures an interesting story concept. But the narration settles down and clarifies in the second half. It's primarily told from the perspective of a sixteen year old white Minnesota plains girl who is a captive of the Dakotas during the Indian wars of the mid-nineteenth century. Her story is riveting, artfully written, and well ...more
Kari
Sep 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A breathtaking, beautifully written and exceedingly violent historical novel about the Sioux Uprising of 1862.

The story traces three generations of a German immigrant family that settles across the river from a band of Dakota Sioux in Minnesota. Told from the points of view of both the settlers and the Dakota, it explores the shifting relationships between neighbors driven apart by their cultures and war.

Maltman’s writing is so evocative that I was enthralled from the first chapter, describing
...more
Karen
This was an Alex Award book a few years ago and another YA librarian suggested it at a meeting where we were discussing historical fiction. Since it was right up my alley (19th century, american pioneers, Native-Americans, conflict, etc.), I looked it up and wasn't disappointed. The story is about identity as well as the things the night birds of the title represent to Hazel's father, a German immigrant who tells her the story of the black birds Hunin and Munin -memory and understanding. This is ...more
Richelle
Feb 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Immigrants settling on the plains, and the Native Americans who already live there. I liked how this book tells both sides of the story. The story is such a tragic one of brutality and violence on both sides that it is hard to read about. There were some really violent scenes that I'm sure have historical basis, but were just hearbreaking to read about. There were several time lines or story lines woven together, but it was easy to go back and forth between them. I liked how the author brought t ...more
Cecile
Jan 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, fiction
Feb 2011. 3+. An interesting period in American History usually overshadowed by the Civil War. Not much people pay attention to what was happening in the States west of the Atlantic seaboard during the mid-nineteenth century. Maltman gave a believable portrayal of people's daily lives and the struggles between native peoples and white settlers. Our book club had a lively discussion about this book given that one member described it as akin to a Harlequin Romance. Ha ha! I think it has more subst ...more
Fitchy
Jun 24, 2009 rated it liked it
I would have given this book 4, or perhaps even 5 stars, except the author bailed on the story in the last 20 pages or so - sweeping up all the scattered pieces and dumping them into a big box with a bow tied around it and calling it the end. I hate that. This was an absorbing and complex story, a real eye opener with respect to how difficult and violent day-to-day existence was in this country a mere 150 years ago, and it deserved a more thoughtful conclusion.
Bre
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was disturbing and heart-wrenching and brave - an amazing historical fiction based on the Great Sioux Uprising, which I am ashamed to admit I knew very little about prior to picking up this book. The prose was lovely, and the pace of the story was perfect. The fearlessness of his writing was actually pretty startling. I had a few cringe-worthy moments during this book, but it was still incredibly satisfying. Definitely recommend!
Betsy
Jul 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very solid debut. I've been meaning to read something by Thomas Maltman for a long while and when this became available on my wish list at the library I grabbed it. I haven't read any "western" fiction in a while and this story of a family that moves from Missouri to settle in Minnesota has all the requisite components: hardship galore, pissed off Native Americans tired of the white man's abuses, scalpings - you get the picture. Compelling characters and a good story.
Betsy
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The combination of really good writing, solid historical fiction in a story that shifts between 1862 and 1876 Minnesota, romance, the strife and violent misunderstanding between Indians and whites and a bit of a mystery make this a solid page-turner. Maltman has done a fantastic job imagining how the Dakota uprising affected all of the people involved as well as the next generation.
Amy
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written novel of a little known historical event of a clash between German settlers and slaveholders following the Great Sioux War of 1862. The setting is the prairies of Little House on the Prairie but the novel is so much richer, more realistic and heartrending. Difficult to read, but haunting.
Monica Tolva
When settlers started moving west, looking for available land to take and plant crops and make a new life for themselves and their families, they found good dark soil, clear streams and fields of prairie grass. It seemed like it was theirs for the taking. But the land belonged to someone else. And the Native Americans were not happy with their new neighbors.

After her mother died giving birth to her younger brother, Hazel's sadness made her stop speaking. This silent young girl lived with her Ger
...more
Rebecca
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19th-century
3.5 stars

Thomas Maltman set himself a tremendous challenge for his debut novel, writing a story about the Dakota Uprising of 1862. The conflict, though little known outside of Minnesota, reverberates here to this day. (I read this novel against the backdrop of a controversy over a sculpture​ inspired by the gallows on which 38 Dakota soldiers were executed after the war; for their descendants, the tragedy is still fresh.) For the most part, Maltman does a good job in his handling of the subject.
...more
Paul Thomas
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: character-dev
This is a literary novel, historical fiction if you will, about the fights between indian factions and settlers in Minnesota and Missouri in the mid to late 1800's. The history is told through the eyes of a fictional family, 3 generations who settled, uprooted and settled in these areas. Much of the story is told by the grandson of the first generation of settlers. He lives in Minnesota with his mother, father and aunt. His father and aunt, as children, were run out of Minnesota for their father ...more
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review on Night birds 1 8 Aug 13, 2013 08:11AM  

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I am the oldest of twenty-six cousins and the child of an Air Force pilot. Our family lived everywhere from Lubbock, Texas to Stuttgart Air Force Base in Germany. I learned to love travel and love the stories of these places, their history and lore. These loves would serve me well when it came time to write a novel.

I am married to a Lutheran pastor and live in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. I have th
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