The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles is the gripping story of two men whose separate lives are tried and tested to extremes at the end of the American Civil War.
Britt Johnson was a free black man who moved his family to North Texas to start a new life where his wife hoped to become a teacher and he would be a freight hauler. Samuel Hammond was a Quaker who had just taken part ownership in a ship when a turn of events instead landed him the job of Indian Agent.
Britt Johnson’s family was almost destroyed by a horrendous Comanche and Kiowa attack. Samuel Hammond’s seemingly impervious Quaker faith takes a beating during his tenure as an Indian Agent in North Texas around the time of 1863.
In this historical novel Paulette’s writing style develops both men’s personalities simultaneously as both are dealing with Native American problems of their own. Britt’s cautious and shrew nature serves him well on the most momentous undertaking of his life rescuing his family from the Native Americans. If it hadn’t been for Samuel’s tempestuous time as an Indian Agent his sincere and unfailing faith would probably never have faltered during his lifetime.
I enjoyed Paulette’s writing style as a break from the violence every few chapters was very welcome. Her extremely descriptive style allows the reader to become completely enveloped in the vastness of America that for a time only a few people knew. It was a place of freedom as well as great peril.
Reading The Color of Lightning was a journey through fear, history and a psychology course all bound up together. I laid the book down, walking away from it crying many times saying that I could not continue on. Every time I went back to it knowing that I had to find out what happened to these people whose lives were so drastically altered.
I would now like to read more about the different Native American groups as well as the beginning of the American Civil War.
Paulette Jiles lives on a ranch near San Antonio Texas and has conducted a lot of research into the story of Britt Johnson as the history of North Texas and the Comanche and Kiowa people. I plan to read her other books, Cousins, Enemy Women, and Stormy Weather.