Museum of Human Beings

Museum of Human Beings

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by Colin Sargent
     
 

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From deprivation in the wilderness to the lavish courts of European nobility, this poignant historical novel explores the life and quest of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea. After the famed Lewis and Clark expedition and the death of his mother, Jean-Baptiste was brought up as Clark's foster son. He was eventually paraded throughout Europe as a… See more details below

Overview


From deprivation in the wilderness to the lavish courts of European nobility, this poignant historical novel explores the life and quest of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea. After the famed Lewis and Clark expedition and the death of his mother, Jean-Baptiste was brought up as Clark's foster son. He was eventually paraded throughout Europe as a curiosity from the wilds of America, labeled as a half gentleman and half animal, entertaining nobility as a concert pianist. Jean-Baptiste returns to North America with a burning desire to create his own place in the New World. In doing so he returns to the heart of the American wilderness on an epic quest for ultimate identity that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.

A Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, leads Lewis and Clark to the Pacific at the turn of the nineteenth century. On her back is a tiny infant. He is her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the Expedition—a child caught between two worlds who is later raised by Clark as his foster son.
 
When the teenage Baptiste attracts the notice of the visiting Duke Paul, Prince of Württemberg, Clark approves of the duke’s “experiment” to educate the boy at court. A gleeful Duke Paul has Baptiste trained as a concert pianist and exhibits him throughout Europe as a “half gentleman–half animal.”


Eventually Baptiste turns his back on the Old World and returns to the New, determined to find his true place there. He travels into the heart of the American wilderness, and into the depths of his mother’s soul, on an epic quest for identity that brings sacrifice, loss, and the distant promise of redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Playwright Sargent's debut novel is a stylish look at the fate of Sacagawea's baby son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the first Native American to tour Europe-as a curiosity and entertainment, of course. Twenty-four-year-old Sacagawea, though married, becomes William Clark's lover while helping guide the Lewis and Clark Expedition; after she dies on the trail, Clark adopts her son, Baptiste. Soon, Clark establishes his home in St. Louis, as well as a garish museum dedicated to his expedition, and sets to educating his new son. Soon, Baptiste is traveling Europe under the protection of Duke Paul, a cruel man who, when he isn't exhibiting the boy to royal courts, repeatedly rapes young Baptiste. Six years later, Baptiste returns to America (astonishingly, still accompanied by Paul), where he confronts Clark over his mother's mysterious death; unsatisfied and restless, Baptiste heads west and finds work as a fur trapper, an Army scout and gold prospector. Increasingly haunted by his mother, Baptiste revisits her in memories and visions that lend themselves nicely to Sargent's lyrical prose. With historical cameos (Beethoven, Kit Carson, Washington Irving) and an impressively rounded portrait of the laid-back, introspective, nomadic Baptiste, this novel will satisfy fans of American history. (Nov.)

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Maine Sunday Telegram

One of the most satisfying works of fiction that I have read in years . . . Sargent sends the youthful Baptiste on a multi-leveled grand tour of discovery that never lets up or disappoints.

Library Journal

In 1805, Lewis and Clark embarked on one of the most fantastic journeys in American history. Even today their expedition of discovery continues to captivate our imagination as well as our fascination with the mysterious Shoshone guide, Sacagawea. For approximately two years, Sacagawea, traveling with her infant son Jean-Baptiste, endured the harsh challenges of the American wilderness as she led the expedition forward. This debut novel, based on historical facts, focuses on Jean-Baptiste and his struggle to find his identity. The boy's education (sponsored by Clark), his travels with European nobility, and his return to his own roots as a guide and explorer are vividly brought to life. From the beginning to the novel's spellbinding conclusion, playwright and poet Sargent allows us an intimate glimpse into what could have been the heart of Jean-Baptiste. This memorable novel will captivate all who read it. Highly recommended for all public library historical fiction collections.
—Melody Ballard

From the Publisher
"Sargent's debut novel is a stylish look at the fate of Sacagawea's baby son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau . . . Increasingly haunted by his mother, Baptiste revisits her in memories and visions that lend themselves nicely to Sargent's lyrical prose . . . an impressively rounded portrait of Baptiste, this novel will satisfy fans of American history."  —Publishers Weekly

"From the beginning to the novel's spellbinding conclusion, playwright and poet Sargent allows us an intimate glimpse into what could have been the heart of Jean-Baptiste. This memorable novel will captivate all who read it. Highly recommended."  —Library Journal

"A grand and interesting romp through history, an intriguing, masterfully written novel."  —Michael C. White, author, Soul Catcher

"Magic. There is real heart . . . real depth and humanity . . . full of polish and authority . . . I stand to applaud [Sargent's] talent. He's the real thing." —Jack Driscoll, author, How Like an Angel

"One of the most satisfying works of fiction that I have read in years. . . . Sargent sends the youthful Baptiste on a multi-leveled grand tour of discovery that never lets up or disappoints."  —Maine Sunday Telegram

"The book is beautifully written, and has a good sense of time and place."  —  Historical Novels Review

"Strongly reflecting the author's ability as a playwright and poet, [this book] is rich with unusual historical detail. . . . It is a fascinating and ultimately tragic tale of a usually forgotten player in this country's story."  —Denver Post

"It's spooky like Hawthorne, with a Toni Morrison-like sense of place. It's a huge and important project."  —Joan Connor, author, History Lessons

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590133002
Publisher:
McBooks Press
Publication date:
12/01/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,227,573
File size:
1 MB

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Meet the Author


Colin Sargent is a playwright and the author of three books of poetry. He is also the founder and publisher of Portland Magazine. He lives in Portland, Maine.

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