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The Tragedy of the Trail of Tears - an Editorial Review of "Walks the Sky" by Ron Habeck



Book Blurb:

Walks the Sky, the first novel from promising new writer Ron Habeck, delivers the powerful story of Captain Thomas Edwards, a seasoned veteran of the Florida Seminole War, who reports to Fort Newnan in northern Georgia to assist in the removal of the Cherokee Nation to the Indian Lands west of the Mississippi. Fooled into believing the Cherokees are leaving voluntarily, Edwards imagines an easy assignment that will bolster his military credentials and jumpstart his political ambitions. Thomas is soon confronted with a ghost from his past when he discovers his childhood sweetheart, Catherine Sevenstar, living in deplorable conditions among the Cherokees being held at Fort Newnan. In defiance of orders, he embarks on a path that puts him in direct conflict with the fort's mentally deteriorating commander, Colonel Jeremiah Morse, and his psychopath henchman, Elias Watkins. With Catherine's help, Thomas devises a system to smuggle willing captives towards freedom. After several successful escapes, Thomas's plans collapse when Elias captures Catherine who is aiding a getaway. The stakes grow ever higher as Captain Edwards is forced to choose between his career, his future plans, and the woman he still loves.


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Editorial Review:


I can understand why you say that,” he said, “but difficult circumstances expose who is honorable and who is not. We are all the same when life is easy.”


A time in American history that no one talks about... this book is a poignant reminder of the painful journey of the Cherokee Indians as they are forced from their homes on the Trail of Tears to the Indian territory in Oklahoma. And not only a slice of history, but a beautiful love story stretching through time between star-crossed lovers ripped apart by prejudicial people and brought together again to save the lives of others.


Catherine, or Kasewini (her Cherokee name), is a young widowed mother desperate to cling to the only life she has ever known in Georgia and the farmhouse where generations of her family were born and died on the land which means so much to her. Her young daughter learns the ways of the Cherokee from Kasewini's father, the language and the connection to nature; but Kasewini's heart still yearns for a young boy she knew, the grandson of white missionaries who taught love, acceptance, and peace.


Thomas Edwards is that young boy, now grown into a fine West Point graduate, a Captain in the Union army, and if his father has any say in his life, with sights set on a political career. As a side point, Thomas' father, Clinton, is the stereotypical Southern gentlemen full of cognac, cigars, and supremacy in regards to those he considers inferior, whether it is his slaves, the Cherokee... or even his own son.

When Thomas falls for a Cherokee beauty, Clinton steps in, unbeknownst to either of the young lovers, and sets his son's feet on a different path.


He wondered how many others had sat here, intimidated by the surroundings, impressed by the ridiculously expensive cognac. He relaxed a little and marveled at the difference between the silky texture of the French liqueur and the rough, liquid fire he consumed in his Army tent. The tension eased as the cognac slipped down his throat. Surely, he doesn't invite me for a drink if there is bad news, Thomas thought. He took in the surroundings. The fire... the cognac... he's inviting me into his world.


Now, years later, Clinton's agenda is clear when he sends his son on an errand to help with the removal of the Cherokee to the new assigned territory in Oklahoma. Thomas is racked with memories, not only of his past love, but also of his grandparent's who left their indelible mark in his heart of how they treated people of all races with kindness.


The eyes of the nation are on us right now. That is why it is imperative for you to be a part of such a historical event. You will help escort the Indians out of Georgia once and for all. In essence, you will be seen as a hero here in Georgia for doing something pretty simple and straightforward.”


But when Thomas arrives at Fort Newnan, his life is turned upside down upon seeing the horrific conditions the Cherokee are forced to withstand. Corralled in a dusty pen without food and water, he determines to find a way to help them, no matter the consequences... and especially when he discovers Kasewini is one of the prisoners. But Thomas and Kasewini face even greater hardships when the two overseers of the Fort, Colonel Morse (known as “Cutthroat”) and Elias Walker, a civilian hired to “keep a strict watch” over the Cherokee, render their own sort of twisted and maniacal “white man's justice” over the camp. Both men are sorry excuses for human beings and use their power to force the Indians into submission, even if it means torture.


Unfortunately, another thing Kasewini does not expect is the other means Elias uses to wield his power... especially when his new found taste for Cherokee “skirt” heats his blood, and when he discovers the secret past shared between her and Thomas. There are so many images that spring to mind throughout this story, and I feel that anyone who loved “Dances With Wolves” or “Lonesome Dove”, will find a heartfelt connection to this story which is rich with well-developed characters and enlightening history. This is a gritty story of pain, loss, and injustice, and the author does a remarkable job in embedding a reader into the narrative.


Without giving anything away, however, I would have loved to know more about Clinton's motives near the end of the story and more about what happens between him and his son in a certain little cabin in the woods. Enough said; you won't regret reading this heart-wrenching tale.


Clouds covered the moon as if hiding the night's eye in embarrassment. The familiar sounds of the woodlands began to filter across the camp as it quieted – the screech of a hawk, triumphant in the hunt, an owl asking its perpetual question, brother wolf calling for its mate, the wind filtering through the forest. Catherine watched her people. They were at ease with the land. The white men flinched at every noise. Guilty men are jumpy, she thought.


I am worried, Kasewini. I am worried that in generations to come they will forget all about what happened to us. People will forget we were forced to leave. That we had no choice but to abandon our ancestors. They will forget our ancestors are here and not in the Indian territory.”


*****


Walks the Sky” receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence

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