Just published: my new historical novel, “Mariano’s Woman”

Readers of my first two historical novels often ask why Takánsy, the Indian wife of Mariano Medina, inflicted scars on her arm for some mysterious reason. Now, with the publication of my third historical novel, Mariano’s Woman, they’ll have an answer.

This new book picks up Takánsy’s story where Mariano’s Crossing ends. Torn by grief over the death of her fifteen-year-old daughter Lena, Takánsy desperately tries to connect with her daughter’s spirit-being. But before she can join Lena in the Great Beyond, Takánsy must re-live the horror of her early life by telling a story she has never told anyone else—her “great sin” as a young woman.

Takánsy was a real person whose story has always fascinated me. She was born into the Flathead tribe along the Bitterroot River in Montana sometime in the early 1800s, then left her people to marry a French fur trader named Louis Papín. After she was traded to Mariano Medina in 1844 for the substantial price of six horses and six blankets, they set up a successful trading post and stage stop on the Big Thompson River near Loveland, Colorado, known as Mariano’s Crossing.

When her daughter died in 1872, Takánsy was heartbroken. According to historian Zethyl Gates, she would beat her chest and wail, ‘Me sickee, me go to Lena!’ That got me to wondering, which afterlife? Takánsy was both Catholic and Native American. Would she and her daughter be able to connect in the spirit world?

Exploring the great mystery of what happens to our spirits after we die became a theme of the book, along with imagining the events in Takánsy’s girlhood that might have led her to leave her people. That took me on an eye-opening journey through nineteenth-century clashes between Jesuit “blackrobes,” mountain men and Montana Indian tribes.

Writing the book was a challenge. Trying to walk in the moccasins of an Indian woman who lived a hundred and eighty years ago leaves one open to accusations of “cultural appropriation.” My desire to connect with people from a different culture, time and place kept me going, along with encouragement from Gray Wolf, a Cheyenne elder, healer and friend.

Mariano’s Woman completes a trilogy that includes Mariano’s Crossing and Mariano’s Choice, all published by Pronghorn Press. The books may be ordered from local bookstores or purchased online on Amazon. Autographed copies are available on my website.

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