In this fun, entertaining and highly informative historical novel, award-winning author Margaret Verble, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, surrounds Two Feathers' story with a concise history of the area and an in-depth look at the social culture and mores of the times ... Verble artfully brings in the supernatural as the plot flows into a mystery with the hobbled protagonist the principal investigator. She will have you believing and cheering, especially for the ghost. Great fun.
It's not a perfect novel, but at its best, it's a gripping one ... Verble is an immensely gifted writer, but she does make a few missteps here. The book shifts points of view among several characters, and too many of the chapters that aren't focused on Two turn out to be shaggy-dog stories — they're written well, and illuminate some of the history of 1920s Tennessee, but don't add much to the main thread of the novel. Verble is clearly fascinated by Glendale, which really existed, and she's clearly done her research, but it seems like she's tried to fit too much of what she's learned into the novel ... But while the novel can seem unfocused at times, Verble makes up for it with her real narrative skill. Her occasional peregrinations aside, the book moves quickly, and she manages to stick the landing thanks to a few clever plot twists ... Verble's characters are mostly memorable ones, particularly Two. It's difficult to pull off an original version of the tough-but-vulnerable archetype, but Verble does it quite well, giving the young woman a real personality that comes through in her terse but tender dialogue. Crawford, too, is a fascinating character, though the reader is left wishing he'd figured into the novel a little more. And the chapters featuring Little Elk are executed with real finesse; while having a character who's a ghost can come off as gimmicky, Verble plays it with a straight face, and the gambit works ... isn't without its flaws, but it's a compelling novel from an author who writes with sensitivity and compassion. For readers with an interest in 20th-century American history, it's certainly a ride worth taking.
Even the secondary characters are richly drawn, giving life to romantic (and not-so-romantic) subplots and the deep friendship between Two and Crawford, a Black horse handler. Themes of death, belonging, and our distance from the past make this a good choice for book groups who like historical fiction. This utterly memorable, beautifully written story will linger with readers.
Effectively deploying her diverse cast of characters, Verble—an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma—captures the complex social interactions of the time. From race relations to social class to working conditions, Verble addresses key issues while spinning her ghost story around the fictionalized employees of a park that actually existed ... Readers of general fiction will enjoy.
... richly imagined ... Verble beautifully weaves period details with the cast’s histories, and enthralls with the supernatural elements, which are made as real for the reader as they are for the characters. This lands perfectly.
Verble, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has written an ambitious novel that’s impressive in its scope and concept: Glendale Park Zoo and the 101 are rife with narrative possibility and give the author a chance to examine a fascinating cross section of race and class and the uneasy relations between all manner of characters. The research lies heavily on the novel’s frame, though, and readers may find themselves wishing to sweep away some of the exposition to stick with Two and the life she attempts to carve out for herself against the weight of history ... An overflowing narrative about the ubiquitous presence of the past.