The Night Birds

The Night Birds

Book - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
“We all set our sights on the Great American Novel. . . . [Thomas Maltman] comes impressively close to laying his hands on the grail.”—Madison Smartt Bell, The Boston Globe

“Maltman’s prose and pacing flow from an expert hand. . . . His gaze is unflinching and balanced. . . . And while there is much loss in the novel, in the end there is salvation.”—Robin Vidimos, Denver Post

“Maltman’s writing is most lucid when he explores the German folklore, Dakota mysticism, and pioneer spirituality that shape his characters’ understanding of their own harsh world.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Thomas Maltman’s debut novel, The Night Birds, soars and sings like a feathered angel.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“[Maltman] excels at giving even his most harrowing scenes an understated realism and at painting characters who are richly, sometimes disturbingly human. The novel sustains its tension right to the moment it ends.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)

“[A] flawless sense of history marked by its most revealing—and harrowing—details.”—Booklist

The intertwining story of three generations of German immigrants to the Midwest—their clashes with slaveholders, the Dakota uprising and its aftermath—is seen through the eyes of young Asa Senger, named for an uncle killed by an Indian friend. It is the unexpected appearance of Asa’s aunt Hazel, institutionalized since shortly after the mass hangings of thirty-eight Dakota warriors in Mankato in 1862, that reveals to him that the past is as close as his own heartbeat.

Thomas Maltman lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. This is his first novel.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Baker & Taylor
For Asa the summer of 1876 was a time of fear and uncertainty, when his mysterious aunt, Hazel, arrives and turns his entire life upside-down with her tales and secrets from the past.

Blackwell North Amer
The summer of 1876 is a time of fear and uncertainty for young Asa Senger and his German immigration family. Vast clouds of locusts descend once more on the Great Plains, stripping the land bare. The James/Younger gang, a band of murderous thieves, is rumored to be riding north into the area. And all the while, Asa can sense lurking just under the surface of his daily life something appalling that his parents will never speak of.
A mysterious aunt named Hazel, confined for years in an asylum, arrives bearing with her secrets about the now banished Dakota Indians whom everyone else wants to forget. Their family's relationship with these onetime neighbors and friends has shaped her life, and theirs. Her arrival will propel the story into the past, as far back as the Senger family's initial settlement in and later flight from slave-holding Missouri, a place of superstition and folklore. Interweaving Grimms' Tales, the abolitionist movement, country healers and water-witches, as well as Dakota ethnography and heritage, she tells the story of their epic journey.
Past and present are intertwined in this narrative, as Asa discovers that violence cannot stay buried when the dark history that his family has fought to keep secret is revealed. The past, Asa is about to find out, is as close as his own heartbeat.

& Taylor

For Asa, the summer of 1876 was a time of fear and uncertainty, when his mysterious aunt, Hazel, arrives and turns his entire life upside-down with her tales and secrets from the past.

Publisher: New York : Soho, c2007
ISBN: 9781569474624
Branch Call Number: FICTION MALTMAN
Characteristics: 370 p. ; 24 cm


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SPPL_Betsy Mar 09, 2018

During the summer of 1876, fourteen-year old Asa Senger learns haunting details about his family’s history after his mysterious aunt Hazel comes to live with him. Hazel informs young Asa about the reasons the Senger family settled on the Minnesota prairie, the hardships his parents and grandparents endured, and the tragic unfolding of the Dakota uprising. A surprising revelation forces Asa to understand that he is more closely tied to the uprising and ensuing mass-hangings of Dakota warriors than he ever imagined.

Thomas Maltman does an excellent job of describing a harrowing and disturbing period in American history from multiple perspectives. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the details of nineteenth century prairie life intermingled with the fictional accounts of Asa and Hazel. Though there are violent scenes described in the book, readers of Young Adult literature may like that much of book revolves around adolescent characters, and is told in an accessible manner. Maltman earned several awards for The Nightbirds, including the ALA Alex Award (2008).


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