Pearl meticulously reconstructs this world of tribes and settlers, caught between British and American military ambitions ... a fascinating picture of frontier Kentucky in which, contemporaneously with incidents of violence and atrocities, Native Americans and settlers intermarried, raised interracial offspring, traded, shared survival skills and changed alliances, as all struggled to survive ... Pearl...has a tendency to interject essential historical context into the story rather abruptly, diverting us from the characters and events at hand. New characters are introduced frequently, together with their back stories—even in the midst of action scenes, such as those recounting Boone’s pursuit of the three girls—with the result that the suspense is punctured and narrative momentum is lost ... To his credit, Pearl resists oversimplifying a history that has been too often presented as a frontier romance, showing us that it is as much about the women, children and Native Americans who played a part in it as the famous men who ensured it would be remembered.
Pearl, like everyone else who has written on the subject, is limited by his sources, most of which come in the form of recollections recorded years or decades later. And although his story is as much about Indians as about Whites, essentially nothing survives about the former that hasn’t been filtered through the latter ... Yet Pearl does what he can, and deftly re-creates a fraught moment in the confusing struggle among American Patriots, American Loyalists, British and Indians ... Pearl draws out the drama, which won’t be spoiled here. Along the way, he brings in numerous additional characters to broaden the story ... Pearl’s care to get the history just right may put off readers who find the repeated entrances and exits distracting. On occasion, his apparent desire not to offend obscures the meaning of events he describes ... Certain of Pearl’s conclusions are appealing but wishful ... The strength of Pearl’s book lies in the narrative, not the conclusions. He has identified a gripping story and told it well. That’s accomplishment enough.
Pearl begins to get lost in something of a name-dropping soup, sometimes losing the story to a barrage of facts. Those facts are important, though and with more than 230 sources, Pearl painstakingly cultivates an accurate account of events. But he’s at his best when he leans into more expressive language ... Despite these ebbs and flows, The Taking of Jemima Boone is an authoritative primer on Kentucky’s white settlers and Indigenous populations.
Jemima is such a great character that you would swear she was a fictional creation and not a flesh-and-blood young woman ... Many times I felt like I was reading a work of fiction from James Fennimore Cooper ... Matthew Pearl’s research is impressive, and his branching off into narrative nonfiction storytelling is a huge hit. I hope we haven’t seen the last of this kind of work from him.
Who would have imagined that an illiterate frontier teenager contributed so mightily to America’s future? Certainly not any previous historian of whom I am aware ... Particularly puzzling is Mr. Pearl’s assertion that the chance encounter between the tiny Indian war party, led by the minor Cherokee leader Hanging Maw, and the three white girls was somehow deliberate ... Despite the subtitle of Mr. Pearl’s book, 'Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped America,' the author says little about settler life or the society and culture of the Indian nations encountered in the book. What he does say on the latter is often wrong ... the least authentic account of the early American frontier that I have read.
... riveting ... Pearl vividly evokes life on the Kentucky frontier ... Pearl illuminates shifting alliances and betrayals among Native tribes, British soldiers, and American colonists during the early years of the Revolutionary War, and notes that Blackfish advocated diplomacy over violence and tried to turn the frontier into an 'integrated shared space.' Instead, the Kentucky settlements became 'a testing ground' for manifest destiny, with catastrophic results for the tribes. This enthralling, meticulously researched tale sheds news light on Daniel Boone and early American culture.
Though Bob Drury and Tom Clavin’s Blood and Treasure covers this ground better, Pearl spins an entertaining story. The capable, resourceful Jemima, occasionally forgotten in the narrative, turns up at just the right moments, plot points if this were a novel ... A readable though ancillary work of frontier history.