Author Thad Carhart took on an interesting task with his latest work, the fictional
biography of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, who was the son of Sacagawea. The task was to take
what little is known of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau's life, and flesh it out with realistic
possibilities of what may have happened during the years of his life that remain undocumented.
All that is actually known of the young man's life from 1824 through 1829 is that he lived
in Europe. Carhart took great pains to make this book seem both historically believable and
Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau lived in both North Dakota and St. Louis as he was growing up,
much of that time spent as a ward of William Clark, and traveling with the Lewis and Clark
Expedition. He learned to speak European languages and Indian languages quite fluently.
This is believed to have been one of the reasons that in 1823 Duke Paul of Germany hired
him to come to Europe as a consultant for his collections of anthropological and natural
The book incorporates love and romance between Jean-Baptiste and both a young Irish woman
of dubious lineage and an older woman, a German countess. The story unfolds with excellent
descriptive narrative of the times and places of Jean-Baptiste's life, and of his growing
discomfort with watching Duke Paul display items in his castle that he remembers from
childhood as an Indian. He is torn between both worlds he has lived in and questions whether
he really fits in either.
I am not usually a reader of historical fiction, so this book did take me out of my comfort
zone, which is, in the end, a good thing. I enjoyed the story and came to have a better
understanding of the world in the early 1800's, and so believe this is a book that readers
who enjoy history, or biographical fiction with a historical setting, will find quite