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Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite
Elly Hays is a story that takes place in the early 1800s. The book opens with a speech from Tecumseh urging the Creek Village that lives in the Mississippi Territory where Tafv and his son live to join forces and go to war against the white man. But many of the Creek have started adopting the white man's ways, even marrying their women, so Tafv is torn about how to handle the problem. Meanwhile in Tennessee, James Rodgers has heard about cheap government land in Creek territory and convinces his wife Elly to move their eleven children there. When they arrive, they are faced with aggravation from the Creek, because Tafv's plan is to run them off instead of killing them, hoping that they will go away and tell other whites how difficult it is to live on Creek land. The Rodgers are a tenacious bunch, though, and don't go easily. But when Tafv's only son is killed, he vows to seek revenge against the Rodgers.
Elly Hays by Lori Crane is a rare gem because it's a fictionalized story based on a real family that lived during the 1800s. What makes it so unique is the way Ms. Crane portrayed the Indians in this story. Instead of portraying them as savages, she allows us to glimpse them as real people with real feelings, who grieve over losses just as the white man did. Tafv was a brave warrior, but more than that he was a caring individual that felt hurt and grieved deeply for those he lost. She provides insight into the plight that the Native Americans must have felt during this time period as they desperately tried to figure out a way to hold onto their way of life. Unfortunately, the Rodgers family found themselves in the middle of this struggle. Smoothly written, the chapters easily transition between Elly and her family and the issues with Tafv and his clan. Ms. Crane really did her research because she provides rich detail that truly allows the reader to feel as if they are part of the time she is describing. A historically rich tale where there are really no bad guys. Instead the author allowed me to see both sides. The epilogue and author notes added to this story in my opinion because it allowed me to learn what happened after the story. Historical fiction where there is plenty of truth woven in made Elly Hays a page-turning read for me.