MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
THUNDER FALLS - THE EDUCATION OF LEOPOLD RED WOLF
Thunder Falls: The Education of Leopold Red Wolf belongs in any collection strong in Western fiction and Native American literature. It explores the evolution of protagonist Leopold Wolf in the mid-1800s. His journey led him to become an outspoken Native American rights advocate at an era when the concept of Native rights was barely an idea, much less a reality.
The roots of Wolf's quest actually begin when he is eight and observes his mother's terrible death when a cannonball is fired through their house by the Confederacy during the opening days of the Battle of Carlisle. Tasked with taking care of his father at too young an age, Wolf grows up with the weight of the adult world on his young shoulders. This sets the stage for his later involvement in the Carlisle Indian School, which employs Wolf and Son Woodworking in a much-needed building job.
Little did he realize that the business arrangement would lead to social change and revised purpose in his life: "Much as I was involved in crafting every inch of those structures, what I didn’t know was how my life was going to change once the Carlisle Indian School opened its doors, and how my narrowed outlook on the world would cease to exist."
Neil Perry Gordon juxtaposes fictional drama with historical fact in a satisfying way, bringing to life the milieu of the late 1800s and the political influences on Native American lives and futures.
As Wolf comes to many new realizations that revolutionize his life trajectory, so readers absorb the politics and influences of times which lead Wolf to make uncommon decisions that lead him to become an advocate for Native Americans.
The story unfolds a rich contrast between ethical and moral values and the social compass of changing White society and Native Americans alike as issues of assimilation, repression, and civil rights rise to the forefront.
This showcase of history encourages important dialogues between contemporary readers and book clubs interested in the too-wild West and methods by which it was perceived, tamed, and controlled.
Libraries and readers seeking a fictional story that attracts with realistic scenarios and influences will find Thunder Falls a powerful social observation of many of the forces in this bygone world which continue to influence behaviors and choices today.
The story concludes in a cliffhanger which portends further coverage of Wolf's journey and education, maintaining that, despite all the events that have influenced him, his real education is just beginning.
~ D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review