Valley of the Shadow by S. G. Whitson {book review}


Valley of the Shadow  by Stephanie Grace Whitson {book review} is the first in the Dakota Moons series. If you love midwest history, you may fall in love with Whitson’s writing.

Summary:  Mama had been gone for several years, now, but Gen could still hear her voice.
Someday someone is going to call you a stupid squaw. When they do, you must remember who you are. You are the daughter of a French nobleman. Your father speaks four languages. He has studied at schools most whites could never hope to enter. You are the granddaughter of a Dakota warrior who earned an entire headress of eagle feathers in battle. Never forget these things. Remember that they can call you a stupid squaw, but you do not have to be one.

“I won’t go and you can’t make me!” Eighteen-year-old Genevieve LaCroix protests when her father tells her it’s time to leave home and get further education at nearby Renville mission. The daughter of Good Song Woman and Etienne LaCroix, she carries in her blood the proud heritage of a Dakota warrior and a French aristocrat. But when Gen arrives at Renville mission, she learns that her heritage is not valued in the changing world created by new white immigrants.

At first the lessons learned at the mission are difficult and lonely. But soon Gen finds new friends and begins to understand this strange culture she has become immersed in. When the missionary family takes in Two Stars, an injured young Dakota warrior, Gen begins to learn how quickly a life can change.

When the Minnesota Sioux Uprising destroys the world she has known and threatens the people she loves most, Gen begins to question everything she has been taught about God. Valley of the Shadow, the first book in the Dakota Moons Series, is a story of one woman’s walk “through the valley of the shadow of death.”

My Reaction:  Public library copy. This is the first in the Dakota Moons series, which is similar to the Prairie Winds series, historically, but in a different location.

This was a difficult read. Not that it is not well written. The subject is difficult.

I’m ashamed that I don’t know this part of American history, which I suspect is because it is not taught. The inhumane treatment of the Sioux by the United States government was deplorable.

If you are looking for a cozy read, this is not the book for you. I suspect the book is far more historical than fictional. There are many characters, making it difficult at times for the reader to keep track of identities. This book is a literary wonder, for weaving the story with what I suppose to be the historical events of this time period, which is during the Civil War.

I love how the author characterizes the main pov characters by their personalities and their faith, not by their race, although she does define the different racial lifestyles and the difficulties in bridging those. I highly recommend this book to any reader who wants to learn about the Sioux nation and its demise, and about those who served as missionaries to the Sioux during the mid-1800s. You will not be disappointed. You may even have your own faith tested as a result of reading this book!

My Rating:  3 stars  I gave it three stars because it was difficult reading (the facts), and because (no spoilers) I disagreed with parts at the end of the book which seemed a bit unrealistic and inconsistent with the characters of Simon and Gen.

And the story does not end here, but continues in the next book of the series … hopefully with more hope and a little less death.

This review is also on Goodreads.

View all my Goodreads reviews

About the Author:

A native of southern Illinois, Stephanie Grace Whitson has lived in Nebraska since 1975. She began what she calls “playing with imaginary friends” (writing fiction) when, as a result of teaching her four homeschooled children Nebraska history, she was personally encouraged and challenged by the lives of pioneer women in the West.

Since her first book, Walks the Fire, was published in 1995, Stephanie’s fiction titles have appeared on the ECPA bestseller list numerous times and been finalists for the Christy Award, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year. Her first nonfiction work, How to Help a Grieving Friend, was released in 2005.

In addition to serving in her local church and keeping up with two married children, two college students, and a high school senior, Stephanie enjoys motorcycle trips with her family and church friends. Her passionate interests in pioneer women’s history, antique quilts, and French, Italian, and Hawaiian language and culture provide endless story-telling possibilities.

Find out more about Stephanie Grace Whitson on her website, her Facebook page, her Goodreads page, and her Pinterest account. Check out her books at Christianbook.com.

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