In Calamity's Wake: A Novel

In Calamity's Wake: A Novel

by Natalee Caple
     
 

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Miette has no desire to meet the mother who abandoned her, a woman she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker, and exhibition shooter: Martha Canary, made notorious as Calamity Jane. But Miette's beloved adoptive father makes a deathbed request that the two be reunited: "You have to do it. Promise me you will not change your mind. I know that you've

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Overview

Miette has no desire to meet the mother who abandoned her, a woman she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker, and exhibition shooter: Martha Canary, made notorious as Calamity Jane. But Miette's beloved adoptive father makes a deathbed request that the two be reunited: "You have to do it. Promise me you will not change your mind. I know that you've heard sickening things and those things are all true, but I'm sure she wants to know you."

Set in the Badlands of the North American West in the late 1800s, In Calamity's Wake tells the story of Miette's quest across a landscape occupied by strangers, ghosts, and animals. On her journey she meets an old lover of her father's, a man who claims to be her brother, an imposter she thinks is her mother, Negro minstrel Lew Spencer, a kind madam who is her mother's best friend, a wolf who longs to protect her, and many others.
Woven into Miette's story are the stories of Jane as told in legend, history books, dime store novels, and by the woman herself. When Miette and her mother finally meet, the many threads of these tales come together and Miette must decide whether to forgive the woman who had forsaken her for a life of danger and adventure.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
On his deathbed, Miette promises her adoptive father that she will seek out her mother, the notorious western legend Calamity Jane. What follows is a dark and thrilling adventure through the American Badlands in the late 19th century, brought to life by exacting prose and a gallery of gothic characters (including a hag claiming to be Miette’s dead father’s love and a woman who begs Miette to find her children’s bones at the bottom of a well). By turns cinematic in its rendering of landscape and heartbreaking in its rich depiction of its young heroine, poet and novelist Caple (Mackerel Sky) employs a full range of language and experimental narration to innervate the plot. Interspersed through Miette’s story are minor characters’ perspectives and larger-than-life portraits of Calamity Jane—rendered through colloquial tall tales, dime-novel hyperbole, and something close to genuine biography—that lend a fascinating tone to the book and blur the line between the historic woman and the myth she became. As Miette travels the wild country in search of her mother and herself, an early line in the story continually haunts her journey: “One likes to believe in the goodness of people. But the people you meet on the road, well, sometimes the unseen cannot really see themselves.” (Oct.)
From the Publisher

“An intriguing novel of longing, adventure, and chance encounters… at once lush and precise, straddling magical realism and cowboy romance… Caple's prose crackles with life in this novel, each sentence a stunning incantation.” —The Rumpus

“A poetic dream of a Western.” —Mary Doria Russell

“A fresh, new look at one of early America's honest-to-God heroes with radiant prose that's as brutal and plain-spoken as it is lovely. Caple's book brims with landscapes and people at once familiar and strange while her Calamity Jane cuts through mythology to find the heart of the living, breathing woman she might have been.” —Lance Weller, author of Wilderness

“In Calamity's Wake reinvents the western quest novel with nuanced female characters. It's ambitious and smart, and just as suspenseful as its setting would suggest.” —The Globe and Mail (Canada)

“A dreamy, often melancholic tale of the American West.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Marvelous… In Calamity's Wake is beautifully written.” —Booklist

“Caple succeeds in spinning a wild and wooly tale of the American West in the late 1800s…The many sides of Calamity Jane (born Martha Jane Canary) have been presented before by contemporary authors…but the archetype of the wild woman never dies and receives colorful treatment here. Readers looking for fresh Western fiction will be well satisfied.” —Library Journal

“A dark and thrilling adventure through the American Badlands in the late 19th century, brought to life by exacting prose and a gallery of gothic characters… By turns cinematic in its rendering of landscape and heartbreaking in its rich depictions of its young heroine...Interspersed through Miette's story are minor characters' perspectives and larger-than-life portraits of Calamity Jane--rendered through colloquial tall tales, dime-novel hyperbole, and something close to genuine biography--that lend a fascinating tone to the book and blur the line between the historic woman and the myth she became.” —Publisher's Weekly

“This slender, inventive book is structured in compact chapters with alternating points of view that are ultimately braided together. Caple's approach enhances the overall suspense and appeal of the narrative whose unifying theme is loneliness. Miette's story is about a young woman's emotional coming-of-age and self-discovery, while the chapters on Calamity Jane's life, rendered via facts and shrouded mystery, flesh out a vivid portrait of the often misunderstood woman behind an American icon.” —Shelf Awareness

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
Who was Calamity Jane? A liquor-loving wild woman? A dime-novel invention? The daughter she abandoned sets out to discover the truth in an impressionistic portrait of frontier days. Forget Doris Day singing "The Deadwood Stage." Canadian poet and novelist Caple's (Mackerel Sky, 2004, etc.) patchwork depiction of the iconic female scout is darker and less definitive than Hollywood's. Born Martha Canary, perhaps the child of poor farmers, or a madam, or maybe even raised by wolves, the mythic figure of Calamity Jane is surrounded by imprecision. All that young Miette knows is that Calamity Jane was the mother who abandoned her, and now, on the death of the kindly priest who raised her, Miette has obeyed his dying wish and begun a journey to find her. Martha's and Miette's chapters alternate in a dreamy, often melancholic tale of the American West, a place of stupendous beauty and abundance, now in the throes of profound change because of settlement, the Civil War and suppression of the Native American population. Miette's harsh journey, threaded with visions, ghosts and glimpses of violence as well as rumors of her mother's life and location, concludes with an implausible letter and a tender death scene. Calling her novel a work of metahistoriographic fiction, Caple has concocted an atmospheric, sometimes-soaring, but increasingly uneven amalgam of research and lyrical prose. Only fitfully successful.
Library Journal
09/15/2013
Categorizing her third novel (after Mackerel Sky and The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World) as "metahistoriographic fiction" and using touches of magical realism and dime novel sensationalism, Caple succeeds in spinning a wild and wooly tale of the American West in the late 1800s. Readers meet Calamity Jane's daughter, Miette, at her adoptive father's deathbed when he implores her to find her mother. Miette has never met her legendary mother and dreads the task. Alternating chapters present Miette's journey and tales from Calamity Jane's life as an army scout, sharpshooter, hard-core drinker, bear killer, and charitable soul. Spirits and ghosts appear, facts are slippery (Buffalo Bill may or may not be Miette's father), and variety in the form of poems, songs and dreams add zest to the literary mix. VERDICT The many sides of Calamity Jane (born Martha Jane Canary) have been presented before by contemporary authors, including Larry McMurtry (Buffalo Girls) and Pete Dexter (Deadwood), but the archetype of the wild woman never dies and receives colorful treatment here. Readers looking for fresh Western fiction will be well satisfied.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620401859
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
09/17/2013
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Natalee Caple's previous novels, Mackerel Sky and The Plight of Happy People in an Ordinary World, earned high international praise. Her collection of poetry, A More Tender Ocean, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Caple's work has been optioned for film and nominated for a National Magazine Award, the Journey Prize, the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, and the Eden Mills Fiction Award. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

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