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.
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.
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.