This is why I read books by Coffee House Press. They are constantly bringing attention to authors who are willing to explore form, language, and break the rules of what a book is supposed to be and do. LeAnne Howe relies on the playwriting format to tell us about Mary Todd Lincoln who was committed in a psychiatric hospital a few years after her husband’s assassination. Mary claimed to see and talk and be hurt by a “savage Dakota man” so, Howe offers us a glimpse into these conversations with the intervention of a third voice that brings another layer to understanding violence.
As a reader one witnesses these conversations, but also, the interesting and critical research done by LeAnne Howe to remind us about the largest mass execution in the History of the US. Yes, in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the hanging of thirty-eight Dakotas who were simply demanding fairness, food, attention to the abuse of white families.
This book challenges the reader in many ways and becomes a piece in which we become the audience who cannot even take a break to breath act by act, scene by scene. The only reason I don’t give this book five stars might be a very silly one, the footnotes drove me a bit crazy and distracted me from the interactions between such powerful characters.