Ravenous Readers Blog
Oh, yes, you read that right.
That's the character at the heart of the romantic, complex, and action-packed novel Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers. Ismae had a fairly bad early life. Born in 15th century Brittany (a tiny European country, now part of France) to an abusive father and a mother who never wanted her, she was married very young to an equally abusive husband. When she ran away, she discovered the convent of Saint Mortain, where nuns live in service to their patron saint and, by the way, also learn the arts of murder. That's because Saint Mortain is the new name for the old god of death, and he helpfully marks the people that he wants his nuns to kill.
"Woulda, Coulda Shoulda" - that expression of regret over previous decisions may become happily relegated to your past life after you check out Decisive: How To Make Better Choices in Life and Work. Decisive is co-authored by bicoastal brothers, Chip and Dan Heath. Chip is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and teaches courses on business strategy and organizations. Dan is a Senior Fellow at Duke University?s CASE Center for Social Entrepreneurs. The duo capably translate academic jargon into highly readable prose to answer the essential question - how can you triumph over bias, irrationality and overconfidence and make better decisions?
In 1862, on a frigid December morning in Mankato, Minnesota, over 4,000 spectators witnessed the United States government conduct the largest execution in American history. Thirty-eight men, white muslin covering their faces and singing a death song in their native Dakota tongue, dropped through the wooden scaffold's opened platform and dangled for over a half hour. Eventually their bodies were cut down and buried in a shallow mass grave on a sandbar along the Minnesota River - ending an uprising that began in August with the killing of five settlers by four Dakota hunters filled with frustration, whiskey and stolen eggs.
In 38 Nooses : Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End, Scott Berg examines the motives and consequences of this conflict (referred to as the Dakota War of 1862) through the eyes of regional residents and national figures such as the Dakota leader Little Crow (who strongly opposed the attacks) and Abraham Lincoln. Too complicated and extensive to detail in a blog, here are the short facts. Six hundred whites - most unarmed civilians - and approximately 100 Dakota warriors died during the initial conflict. In mock trials, 303 captured warriors were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Through the persistence of the wife of the Reservation's physician, Lincoln - though embroiled in the Civil War - intervened and pardoned all but 38 men. Close to 2000 Dakotas were forcibly relocated to neighboring states, and approximately one-quarter of those people died within the following year.
Berg documents these events within the framework of state and national history, and chronicles an intimate study of individual experiences that were repeated throughout the nation until the end of the United States-Indian wars. Certainly not a beach read, the lives and deaths in 38 Nooses will stay with you long after your tan fades.