About the Book:
Sometimes people end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thanks to an impulsive request from Elizabeth Ann Everett, the Everett family from Omaha, Nebraska, become tourists on a vacation in newly created Yellowstone National Park. The year is 1877 and the weather is fine, . When the Nez Perce, fleeing the U.S. Army, charge into a tourist camp, pampered, wealthy Elizabeth Everett gets more than she bargains for. So do the Nez Perce.
Elizabeth (Liz) Ann Everett is living a comfortable life with her family in Nebraska, when she discovers that her mother is insistent that she attend Vassar in the fall, something Liz has no desire to do. Liz’s sympathetic father offers to allow her to select the family’s summer vacation, and she chooses Yellowstone Park, a choice that will change her life forever. The timing of the Everett family vacation coincides with the flight of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) tribe fleeing the U.S. army, and attempting to cross into Canada. Liz’s own foray on a somewhat stubborn, ancient horse, puts her directly in the path of the tribe, and this action spurs the aging steed to join them, much to Liz’s (and their) dismay.
In the confusion, Liz isn’t noticed until it’s too late to stop her, and they’ve gone much too far for her to turn back on her own. The tribe elders decide to take her with them until they find a safe place to leave her. Liz comes under the care of Blue Mountain Woman, and her son, Kaya, which means Hawk. The tribe, or, The People, have little food, but share what they have with Liz. She is treated with kindness and respect, but has to keep up a grueling pace, quite a change from her pampered life. Time and time again, plans to leave Liz in a safe place don’t come to fruition, and she ends up spending weeks with The People, coming to understand them, and even to love them. Especially Kaya.
As I was reading HER SMILE, I not only became immersed in the fascinating story, but felt as if I had actually gone back in time to visit that world, so vivid and realistic is the writing. The plight of Native Americans has been well documented, as has the shameful way our government treated them, but this story touches on the personal stories of a small group of families who only want to live their lives in peace. The telling of the story is a bit different, in first person, from Liz’s perspective, and it alternates between her current life as a forty five year old woman with a husband and children, back to the time of her adventure when she was just eighteen, in 1877. The romance between Liz and Kaya is poignant and believable, yet hopeless. When Liz is finally returned to her own family, many members of The Family have lost their lives, and the rest will be forced to live on reservations, far away from the land they love. Liz is settled back into her former life, and is eventually accepted back into society after some initial rebuffing, but she’s not the same girl. Her experience has made her stronger, better, and has given her a new purpose, that of trying to make a better world for her temporary Family, and others like them. HER SMILE is another beautifully written and captivating book by Carla Kelly, who is simply incomparable when it comes to combining historical events with characters showcasing both the weak and evil side of human nature, as well as those who love, are generous, and fight for right. Highly recommended. ~Rose