The Grass Dancer

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Charlene Thunder has her sights set on Harley Wind Soldier, clearly one of the most desirable men at the powwow. Harley is known for being unreachable, but he surprises everyone when he is suddenly interested in Pumpkin, a girl from Chicago who happens to be the only female Grass Dancer he has ever seen. Pumpkin wins both the dance contest and Harley’s heart, but Charlene is not ready to give up.

Years before, Mercury Thunder, Charlene’s grandmother, tried to win Calvin Wind Soldier away from his wife, Lydia. Unlike Charlene, Mercury was not content to wait. She used magic to try to reach Calvin, but was thwarted every time. Calvin received assistance that saved him from Mercury, but not from other dangers.

The Thunder women’s interest in Wind Soldier men is not mere coincidence. Generations back, a woman named Red Dress died without being able to go to the spirit world. She remained on earth, waiting to be joined by her husband, Ghost Horse. When he died, however, he went directly to the spirit world. The descendants of Red Dress and Ghost Horse are affected by the restless spirit of Red Dress.

Susan Power has organized the novel in a series of short scenes featuring different characters, reaching further and further back into time until the complete story of Red Dress is revealed. The story is well written, so the shifts in time are not distracting. Instead, Power seems to have found the best way to tell the history of the families and their connections before returning to the present to tie up the final loose ends in a satisfying conclusion.