The Color of Lightning (Hardcover)
April 2009 Indie Next List
“The savage struggle for land and dominion between Native American tribes and Western settlers is brought to life in this riveting novel set in North Texas after the Civil War. Rich in historical background and told in beautiful prose, this is a great novel for book groups.”
— Sheila Daley, Barrett Bookstore, Darien, CT
In 1863, the War Between the States creeps slowly yet inevitably toward its bloody conclusion—and eastern thoughts are already turning to different wars and enemies.
Searching for a life and future, former Kentucky slave Britt Johnson is venturing west into unknown territory with his wife, Mary, and their three children—wary but undeterred by sobering tales of atrocities inflicted upon those who trespass against the Comanche and the Kiowa. Settling on the Texas plains, the Johnson family hopes to build on the dreams that carried them from the Confederate South to this new land of possibility—dreams that are abruptly shattered by a brutal Indian raid upon the settlement while Britt is away establishing a business. Returning to face the unthinkable—his friends and neighbors slain or captured, his eldest son dead, his beloved Mary severely damaged and enslaved, and his remaining children absorbed into an alien society that will never relinquish its hold on them—the heartsick freedman vows not to rest until his family is whole again.
Samuel Hammond follows a different road west. A Quaker whose fortune is destroyed by a capricious act of an inscrutable God, he has resigned himself to the role the Deity has chosen for him. As a new agent for the Office of Indian Affairs, it is Hammond's goal to ferret out corruption and win justice for the noble natives now in his charge. But the proud, stubborn people refuse to cease their raids, free their prisoners, and accept the farming implements and lifestyle the white man would foist upon them, adding fuel to smoldering tensions that threaten to turn a man of peace, faith, and reason onto a course of terrible retribution.
A soaring work of the imagination based on oral histories of the postCivil War years in North Texas, Paulette Jiles's The Color of Lightning is at once an intimate look into the hearts and hopes of tragically flawed human beings and a courageous reexamination of a dark American history.
“A gripping, deeply relevant book.”
-New York Times Book Review on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“[A] meticulously researched and beautifully crafted story . . . this is glorious work.”
-Washington Post on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles’ spare and melancholy prose is the perfect language for this tale in which survival necessitates brutality.”
-Seattle Times on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles never reduces her cast of characters to stock stereotypes, tackling a traumatic and tragic episode in American history with sensitivity and assurance.”
-Booklist on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles is an ardent student of history, and through extensive research is able to reimagine life in post-Civil War Texas and create believable, multi-layered characters with remarkable verisimilitude.”
-San Antonio Express-News
“A rousing, character-driven tale.”
-Kirkus Reviews on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Stick a thumb into any page of Paulette Jiles’s The Color of Lightning and you’ll pull out a fine prose plum.”
-Texas Monthly on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“A remarkably engaging story. . . . Jiles’s description is memorable and evocative.”
-Denver Post on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Paulette Jiles has created a potent, harrowing story about real people with that genuine heroism that makes legendry pale by comparison....Jiles writes with an unerring poet’s touch.”
-Dallas Morning News on THE COLOR OF LIGHTNING
“Jiles colors... historical facts in prose that captures the imagination, allowing her audience to understand the diverse cultures struggling to coexist in this seemingly harsh land.”
-Historical Novels Review
“Elegiac in tone, the novel is ful of fierce, austere poetry, as well as hyms to the Texas landscape.”
-New York Times Book Review