The Heartsong of Charging Elk by James Welch
A Novel

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Inspired by actual historical fact, James Welch's  tells the story of an Oglala Sioux who travels the extraordinary geographical and cultural distance from tribal life in the Black Hills of South Dakota to existence on the streets of Marseille. As a young boy, Charging Elk witnessed his people's massacre of Custer's Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn, followed by years of futile fighting and wandering until the Sioux were finally lured to the Pine Ridge reservation. But he prefers life in the Stronghold, living by his wits and skills in the old way.

Ironically, it is Charging Elk's horsemanship and independent air that cause Buffalo Bill to recruit him for his Wild West Show, which travels across "the big water" to create a sensation in the capitals of Europe. Charging Elk and his Sioux companions are living a life touched by fame and marked by previously unthinkable experiences--until he falls ill in Marseille and, through a bureaucratic mix-up, is left behind in a hospital while the show travels on. Scared, disoriented, Charging Elk escapes--only to fall into a series of events, including a love affair with a prostitute and a shocking murder, that will change his life utterly beyond his imagination.

James Welch, one of our truly great Native American writers, has taken a fascinating premise and realized it with utter mastery. Reminiscent of Fools Crow, his classic novel of Indian life, The Heartsong of Charging Elk is a haunting epic of culture shock and colliding ways of life and thought, sure to be hailed by reviewers and readers alike.

About James Welch

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James Welch is the author of four previous novels, including Fools Crow, which won the American Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He attended schools on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations and studied writing under the legendary teacher Richard Hugo. He lives with his wife in Missoula, Montana.
Published August 15, 2000 by Doubleday. 448 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Incredibly, after 11 years of quiet gardening, he receives a pardon, and in a remarkable series of reversals he makes a family in Marseille and finds a measure of peace .

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Publishers Weekly

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Anyone who has read Welch's Fools Crow, that masterly evocation of life among the Plains Indians, is aware of his extraordinary ability to convey the experience of Native American tribal society.

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Historical Novel Society

There are a few anachronisms (and some barbarous French) but at the well-drawn, believable and even touching conclusion, when the aging Cody brings his show back to Marseilles after sixteen years, the reader will realize that this is a much cleverer, more solid, and more acute book than may have...

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Project MUSE

James Welch has no pretensions to the throne of Henry James as a novelist of the American in turn-of-the-century Europe in this his fifth novel, and in fact he does not confess to having read more than one or two of James's novels in his life.

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