Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Write-Up: Captive Trail, by Susan Page Davis

Susan Page Davis.  Captive Trail.  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.  See here for Moody’s page about the book.

Captive Trail is part of the Texas Trails series, also known as the Morgan Family Series.  This series focuses on the Morgan family in nineteenth century Texas.  In Darlene Franklin’s Lone Star Trail, the Morgan family makes reference to a member of the family who was missing.   Susan Page Davis in Captive Trail tells the story of this particular family member, Taabe Waipu (Billie Morgan), who had been captured by the Comanche.  Captive Trail is about how Taabe came to be reunited with her family, with the help of a mail carrier named Ned Bright, some nuns, and other friends.

The book was pretty slow at first, but I got really drawn into it when the mail carrier Ned brought a buffalo hunter who spoke Comanche, in hopes that this would help him to communicate with Taabe.  Taabe recognized the buffalo hunter and did not want to speak with him, so the nuns hid her and told the buffalo hunter that Taabe was not there.  Ned, later reflecting, concluded that there must be some reason that Taabe did not want to speak with the buffalo hunter, and that perhaps it was because she had an experience with him in the past.  Not only did I admire the respect that Ned and the nuns were showing to Taabe in this scene, but the scene also made me long more for Ned to find a translator whom Taabe could trust, so that the barriers of communication could be redressed.

Another scene that I found moving was when one of the sisters was speaking to Taabe and Taabe’s Mexican friend, Quinta.  Taabe was telling the sister that her father died in the war, and the sister concealed that this war was the one between Texas and Mexico, to avoid causing a rift between Taabe and Quinta.  Taabe admired the sister’s judgment, wisdom, and consideration, and so did I, as a reader.

I was happy that this book from an evangelical Protestant publishing house was depicting Catholic nuns as heroes.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more, however, about the differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs.  This was touched on in one place in the book, where Ned was explaining to Taabe that the hymn “Amazing Grace” was a hymn sung by Protestants, and that Protestants and Catholics worship the same God but have different beliefs.  But I would have liked to have seen more about this.

I am a bit ambivalent about the book’s portrayal of the Comanche.  I would have liked to have seen a more sympathetic portrayal of the Comanche, one that sought to understand issues from their point-of-view, without denying that there were Comanche who did some bad things.  The book did portray the Comanche positively, on occasion, but not as often as I hoped.  At the same time, the picture of the Comanche that we get is largely from the perspective of Taabe, who did not want to live with them.  The book acknowledges, though, that there were many captives who preferred to stay with the Comanche.

I would like to thank Moody Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

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