Melissa Crytzer Fry's Reviews > The Removes

The Removes by Tatjana Soli
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3857699
's review

it was amazing

Wow. I could probably stop there, honestly, because that’s about all you need to know. But… I can’t do that because I loved this book too much not to talk about it.

This novel was an intense portrayal of yet another of America’s darkest periods of history. And it is told through the perspectives of three fascinating characters: two women whose lives were connected in various ways to Gen. George Armstrong Custer, and Custer himself.

I will reiterate one of my frequent sentiments about historical fiction: books like this need to be required reading in our high schools. This book, in particular, includes actual historical photographs, drawings, maps, snippets from newspapers, and congressional mandates – all of which served to illustrate the stark reality of the government’s continued betrayal of the native people (One statement by President Andrew Jackson on “The Case for the Indian Removal Act” still has my head SPINNING. The rationalization he used leaves me speechless).

But don’t fear this book being too history laden. As the author admits, it is fiction, chock full of actual historic accounts, but filled with real and imagined characters about whom you will come to care. You may not always agree with their actions, but you may understand them, if only to a degree. To be sure, this is a heartbreaking novel.

But Soli does such an excellent job of portraying the thoughts of both sides in this horrible conflict. You will love and hate Gen. Custer (and change your mind many times in between), a man haunted by and equally drawn to battle. He often comes across as a complete contradiction – in the way he loves, in his feelings toward the Indians, in his actions – which he recognizes in himself. Soli’s ability to transport us into his mind to understand his conflicted motivations is nothing short of incredible. The same can be said of the characters of Anne and Libbie; the third-person omniscient narration often winnows down into close introspection, which provides an emotionally immersive experience. And, of course, your heart will break for the native Indians; you will gasp at some of their retaliations, but you may just come to understand them. The same can be said of the Army’s behaviors as well.

This novel moved me to many emotions (anger, sadness, sometimes laughter), not only for the disrespect of human rights, the government’s duplicity, and the subsequent savagery of battle on both sides, but for its glimpse at a once-whole, untarnished, respected earth embraced by the native tribes. I shed tears, and likely at a part of the book that most others won’t: a scene involving a solitary buffalo. The actions of the men in that scene made my heart ache, as it was such an accurate portrayal and foreshadowing of human disconnect with the earth, which continues in even greater magnitude today.

So, The Removes – obviously, due to its tie with American Indians – has a great deal of nature and earth-connection to it, which spoke to my own passions and sensibilities. Two passages, in particular, struck a chord with me. The first, when Anne is talking about her white ancestors:

Before her captivity she had always lived protected in houses, inside walls, under roofs. Caged. Even when traveling, she had been hidden away under the canvas canopy of wagons. She had not experienced the immensity of the land around her but rather had lived in fear of it. Did her people hate nature that they were so determined to tame it?

The second, when Custer is speaking to White Buffalo:
- What else can one do with such wilderness but conquer it? (Custer)
- Revere it, pray to it. (White Buffalo)


If you prefer your fiction to be filled with happy moments and to end wrapped up nicely with pretty bows, this may not be the book for you. As the author, herself, said in the Author’s Note, “We honor the past when we depict it as accurately as possible without contorting it to contemporary mores. By doing this, we allow ourselves to better understand our present.” This, she did in spades. Discerning readers who really want to contemplate history will appreciate this book, which is, at its heart, a story about war. Custer’s ruminations in the book may sum it up best:

“Studying the histories of the world, not even brotherhood was enough to safeguard people who had what others coveted.”

It’s a story about man’s historic inability to see through others’ eyes and respect their differences. It’s about man’s ability to rationalize his abhorrent behavior. And it's about love, and devotion, and growing into one’s true self.

Those who enjoyed Philipp Meyer’s The Son, Jonis Agee’s The Bones of Paradise or Paulette Giles’s News of the World, would likely enjoy this literary novel that will leave you thinking about more than the characters, alone. This is not a book to be rushed. Take your time with it. It will leave you thinking about human nature, man’s actions, and our own definitions of happiness and love.

Special thanks to my book buddy, who provided this book as an ARC in advance of publication, even though I didn’t quite finish it before official release. So grateful!

Of note: Some may feel the scenes toward the latter part of the book begin to feel bogged down in “yet another war scene” – or even rushed through – but I think, in the end, these narrative choices served the tempo of the story well, as they illustrate the monotony of soldiering, but also the ‘hurry up and move out’ feel of military campaigns.
33 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Removes.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

April 5, 2018 – Shelved
April 5, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
June 18, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-30 of 30 (30 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Greendale Well, you've convinced me. I'm definitely buying this!


Melissa Crytzer Fry Hannah wrote: "Well, you've convinced me. I'm definitely buying this!"Ha ha. That's all it took? But, wait- you didn't get to see my review yet! :-) So, FYI: it isn't necessarily the lush, verdant prose we both love. BUT, the language, which is economical in some places and more descriptive in others, really paints vivid pictures (at least it did in my mind)! And it is third omniscient, so I suppose it can feel "tell-ish" to some, but I was engrossed in the historical components of the story (as I have an interest in Native American history, and this time period of the mid-1800s). And the characterization of the three MCs was, for me, very good. I haven't written the review yet because I'm still thinking about all of it and my reaction to it. Stay tuned for my full review :-).


message 3: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Greendale Well, now you've heightened my interest. :D


Melissa Crytzer Fry Hannah wrote: "Well, now you've heightened my interest. :D"Hee hee.


message 5: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann What a wonderful review, Melissa! The topics covered by this novel are difficult to deal with, and it sounds like Soli handled them with great skill. This book is in the (too tall) stack by my bed - but it will now move to the top.


Melissa Crytzer Fry Ann wrote: "What a wonderful review, Melissa! The topics covered by this novel are difficult to deal with, and it sounds like Soli handled them with great skill. This book is in the (too tall) stack by my bed ..."Ahh- I understand the "too tall stack." Just going through shelves of books trying to decide which to read next, myself. I hope you find this one as moving as I did, Ann! I can't wait to hear your thoughts.


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Beautiful review, Melissa! I am behind on reading this one, and you have me even more looking forward to it! I think I will love it!


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Klock Custer is one those people we all "know" about without even having a clue of any of the details (other than his association with the Battle of Little Big Horn). This book sounds like a great introduction to an important era if US history.

I agree, historical novels such as this one should be required reading for our students.


Melissa Crytzer Fry Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader & Traveling Sister wrote: "Beautiful review, Melissa! I am behind on reading this one, and you have me even more looking forward to it! I think I will love it!"I think you will, too. It only just released, so you're not THAT far behind :-).


Melissa Crytzer Fry Ellen wrote: "Custer is one those people we all "know" about without even having a clue of any of the details (other than his association with the Battle of Little Big Horn). This book sounds like a great introd..."Hi Ellen. YES to everything you said; I knew little-to-nothing about Custer, other than "Custer's Last Stand" and its association to Little Bighorn, indeed. I learned a great deal and was swept away by the lives of the characters. If you read it, I hope you'll appreciate it as much as I did.


message 11: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Klock Melissa wrote: "Ellen wrote: "Custer is one those people we all "know" about without even having a clue of any of the details (other than his association with the Battle of Little Big Horn). This book sounds like ..."

Like😊


message 12: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I'm from South Dakota and Custer is a big SD state legend. White people were not good to the Native American. Sad sad sad. Great review Melissa.


Melissa Crytzer Fry Barbara wrote: "I'm from South Dakota and Custer is a big SD state legend. White people were not good to the Native American. Sad sad sad. Great review Melissa."Thanks, Barbara. Truer words were never uttered. I'm sure the legend is painted so pretty. Sigh.


Karen Melissa, what a phenomenal review!! Starting this tonight 😊


Melissa Crytzer Fry Karen wrote: "Melissa, what a phenomenal review!! Starting this tonight 😊" I can't wait to hear what you think, Karen! Thank you. Still thinking about this one!!!


message 16: by Jaline (new) - added it

Jaline Excellent review, Melissa! I don't have this one yet but it's been on my wishlist for a bit . . . so I'm keeping my fingers crossed! 😊


Melissa Crytzer Fry Jaline wrote: "Excellent review, Melissa! I don't have this one yet but it's been on my wishlist for a bit . . . so I'm keeping my fingers crossed! 😊"
Oh, Jaline... I hope you are able to read this one. I think you'd really appreciate it!


Angela M An amazing review!


message 19: by Jeannie (new) - added it

Jeannie Awesome review!


message 20: by PorshaJo (new) - added it

PorshaJo Awesome review Melissa! I have this on my list and looking forward to it. I read another book by this author (takes place during a war) and really liked it. So when I saw this one, I added it immediately. Glad to see the 5 stars on this one from you.


Melissa Crytzer Fry PorshaJo wrote: "Awesome review Melissa! I have this on my list and looking forward to it. I read another book by this author (takes place during a war) and really liked it. So when I saw this one, I added it immed..."Thanks, PorshaJo. I definitely want to read The Lotus Eaters, too. Can't wait to hear what you think about this one!


Melissa Crytzer Fry Jeannie wrote: "Awesome review!"Thanks Jeannie. Still thinking about this one nearly a week later...


Melissa Crytzer Fry Angela M wrote: "An amazing review!"Thanks, Angela. And I personally liked your ending interpretation :-).


Tammy Fantastic, Melissa! As you know, I was blown away by this one. So glad you enjoyed it!


Melissa Crytzer Fry Tammy wrote: "Fantastic, Melissa! As you know, I was blown away by this one. So glad you enjoyed it!" Thanks, Tammy. Your recommendation was fabulous!


Elyse Walters Outstanding review Melissa. You know - in some ways, Melissa - you remind me of Tatjana Soli. Having met her a couple of times - and knowing you - there are qualities about you both that are similar. I wish you’d meet Soli at a book reading- she is a lovely woman anyway - and such a perfect fit for you.

I owe you a PM... ( soon). Xoxo


Melissa Crytzer Fry Elyse wrote: "Outstanding review Melissa. You know - in some ways, Melissa - you remind me of Tatjana Soli. Having met her a couple of times - and knowing you - there are qualities about you both that are simila..."Aah, if only she'd come on book tour in Tucson!


message 28: by Cheri (new) - added it

Cheri Fantastic review, Melissa, I may have to add this one back after reading your review!


Melissa Crytzer Fry Cheri wrote: "Fantastic review, Melissa, I may have to add this one back after reading your review!"Thank you so much, Cheri. So you thought about it, but then decided against? I'm still thinking about it... a lot. Not an 'easy' read due to content but, for me, so worth the discomfort for the history lesson/learning -- and the characters.


message 30: by Cheri (new) - added it

Cheri Thanks for your take on this, Melissa, I do think I will read this after all, but I might wait a bit before I tackle it!


back to top