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Across The Endless River

by Thad Carhart


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 entertainingly human.

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 history items.

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 fascinating.

The Book

Doubleday / Random House
September 2009
0385529775 / 978-0385529778
Historical / Biographical Fiction / 1800s
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The Reviewer

Laura Hinds
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Laura Hinds is an experienced freelance writer whose first novel, "Are You Gonna Eat That Banana?", just came out in 2009.
© 2009