Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Book Review: Crow Mary by Kathleen Grissom

Pages: 348
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 6, 2023
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Kitchen House
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "The New York Times bestselling author of the book club classics The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything returns with a sweeping saga inspired by the true story of Crow Mary—an indigenous woman torn between two worlds in 19th-century North America. In 1872, sixteen-year-old Goes First, a Crow Native woman, marries Abe Farwell, a white fur trader. He gives her the name Mary, and they set off on the long trip to his trading post in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Canada. Along the way, she finds a fast friend in a Métis named Jeannie; makes a lifelong enemy in a wolfer named Stiller; and despite learning a dark secret of Farwell’s past, falls in love with her husband. The winter trading season passes peacefully. Then, on the eve of their return to Montana, a group of drunken whiskey traders slaughters forty Nakota—despite Farwell’s efforts to stop them. Mary, hiding from the hail of bullets, sees the murderers, including Stiller, take five Nakota women back to their fort. She begs Farwell to save them, and when he refuses, Mary takes two guns, creeps into the fort, and saves the women from certain death. Thus, she sets off a whirlwind of colliding cultures that brings out the worst and best in the cast of unforgettable characters and pushes the love between Farwell and Crow Mary to the breaking point. Crow Mary sweeps across decades and the landscape of the upper West and Canada, showcasing the beauty of the natural world, while at the same time probing the intimacies of a marriage and one woman’s heart.
Crow Mary was inspired by the real-life Crow Mary, a brave woman who lived during the 1800s in Montana. As a member of the Crow tribe, she lived a quiet life until her betrothed was killed and she was to marry a white man, Abe Farwell, instead. Abe is a fur trader and is much older than her; however, in exchange for their marriage, he will supply her people with guns to use for protection against their many enemies. During the wedding ceremony, he changes her name to Mary, and now she must assimilate into his culture, while never forgetting her customs or her family. Crow Mary is only sixteen, so this is a big change. She leaves her family behind for Fort Benton so Abe can partake in some trading. While there, she makes friends, but also encounters many people who make her skin crawl, not to mention don't respect her. As time passes, she does have feelings for her husband and their marriage seems to be a solid one, except for Abe's tendency to drink too much. While on another trading mission to Canada, something horrible happens to the Nakota people. 40 are slaughtered and some women are taken against their will. No one will help the women but Crow Mary is determined and decides to take it upon herself as she has a ton of bravery and is a good shot. Kathleen Grissom's story of Crow Mary will stay with readers long after they finish the novel. It's a story of survival, of two cultures, and of bravery.

I really enjoyed Crow Mary from the start. How could I not? Could you imagine being sixteen years old, getting married to a much older man, assimilating into a different culture, and moving away from your family? It must have been extremely hard, but she did it with a lot of grace. Crow Mary has a ton of grit and I really enjoyed her story. Abe on the other hand was a real bore. At times I thought he was somewhat nice, but overall, I found him to be a gigantic disappointment. I realize he is an alcoholic and that obviously is a major problem; however, I wanted him to get cleaned up and take care of his family. So, my patience with Abe was really running thin.

Grissom, just like in The Kitchen House, truly highlights how Crow Mary is stuck between two cultures. Grissom covers this with a lot of sensitivity and respect while also highlighting how horribly settlers treated Indigenous people. There were some tough scenes to read in Crow Mary, but it's important to remember what truly happened.

If you enjoy historical fiction, Crow Mary shouldn't be missed. I look forward to what Grissom writes next! So, let me know in the comments if you are a fan of Grissom and if this book is on your TBR list.




  1. What an incredible woman, and story! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Right? It was a great story of courage and survival. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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