January, 2018: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

(Book #93) We met for the last time at Lynn’s as she will be leaving our group specifically and Chicago in general later this month. In my defense, I didn’t make her host before she left; she asked to do it. She wants her Christmas ornament mailed to her! She is the missionary’s wife of this email which I tried to write in the style of the Lieutenant’s journal:

January 17, 2018:   Lieut. Col T. Anderson
41.8781° N87.6298° W     SnowFreezing cold wind out of the west.
Today we made it to the home of the missionary’s wife, where we were served the first real food we have had in days. As she prepared the evening’s meal, Mrs. Elliott, as she is called, put out salmon spread, artichoke dip, and bread. She made special crackers without gluten for Kelley whose condition already seems to improve. We ate the food and drank spirits to warm us and talked of our journey.  Andrews, our expedition photographer, was fascinated by the people and ideas we have encountered. Most agreed, though some of us felt less thrilled about the woman with feathers growing out of her wrist. We sat down to an extravagant dinner of salmon with mango chutney that Mrs. Elliott managed to come by from a trader named Joe. The salmon was served with a salad, asparagus and roasted potatoes, all from her small but well-kept garden. This hardy meal was followed by a dessert of chocolate in a small cup.  It was so good, I would have liked a bigger cup. 
It seemed, however, that a fog of confusion descended upon the table. Though we were conscious of no stimulant, it was as if we were under the influence of a powerful peyote. There was talk of naked bodies being painted and then scrubbed until there was just a pile of skin, many shuddered at this, Benton passed out; a head was lost at the sight of a bride carrying a starbuck; a raven cried “you’re late! you’re late! you’re late!; there were a couple of things thought to be better than sex; kissing and  cousins in a wheelbarrow, chance and beauty; death and taxes.  We knew not what overtook us.
The spell left us as quickly as it came, leaving us only tired and some wanted a cigarette. We did not quarrel, we packed up because we could not impose any further on Mrs. Elliott. She has heavy work ahead of her. Though she has adapted remarkably to the extreme conditions here, she and her husband will be moving somewhere warmer and with less stairs. Andrews made a picture of all of us and gave it to her as a gift. We told her we were all happy and grateful to have spent this short span of time with her before her departure.
The group hopes to be in Idaho by February 7, so we went on our way.

Clearly, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I wasn’t an early explorer.  

The author at once fascinated and annoyed me with the inclusion of the folkloric aspects of the book. The geese, the root baby and the Old Man are all beguiling but I’m just not able to dabble in the unexplained in the midst of my historical fiction — particularly when the Old Man plays such a role in Sophie’s life as well as Allen’s. Susan was the most vocal of the all the girls who thought that clearly the folkloric had to be included because of the region and its first people. While I don’t disagree that the folklore had a place, I have to think that if their mystical powers had been as strong as they are portrayed in the book, it would be the white explorers/ settlers who were relegated to reservations. (And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.)