In Blue Horse Dreaming, author Melanie Wallace has successfully channeled the post-Civil War era, when soldiers and citizens alike are threadbare and worn with grief and suffering, barely subsisting on a far-flung outpost on the far edge of nowhere. It is here that a sad drama unfolds.
Two women abducted by Indians four years earlier are recovered and exchanged for three Indian braves who are returned to their tribe. One of the saved women spews vitriol at her former captors and shuns the other returned captive, Abigail Buwell, a woman ripe with impending childbirth. Riding proudly on her handsome blue roan, Abigail refuses to acknowledge her forced return, separating herself from everyone and comforted only by her horse. Any attempt at communication is rebuffed as Abigail refuses any attempt to recall her first language.
Over time, only two men are allowed near Abigail and the blue roan: Cole, the black smithy, and Major Robert Cutter, the man in charge of an outpost that becomes ever more brutal, more desperate in its circumstances. His mind ravaged by his own inner turmoil, Cutter is, in his way, as isolated as the pregnant young woman. Cutterís leadership abilities are blunted while his charges disintegrate with each passing day. Ignored by all, save Cutter, because of the color of his skin, it is Cole who offers Abigail and her horse shelter near his own.
The soldiers eye Abigail suspiciously, convinced she has haunted the outpost: ďSentries shuddered on night dutyÖ they thought strangers danced on their graves.Ē These soldiers believe they inhabit the most isolated place on the face of the earth, and blame much of their unease and lethargy on Abigail Buwell. The menís tempers grow increasingly more explosive, and bizarre images poison their thoughts. Drunkenness is their sole relief.
Blue Horse Dreaming is a poignant glimpse into the past, filled with luminous insights and a consciousness of the value of each humanís dignity. Wallace skillfully portrays post-war difficulties, Cutterís emotional collapse and Abigailís purposeful withdrawal into memory. Major Cutter, as the soul-battered and ineffective officer, perfectly illustrates the great cost of war and its aftermath. His emotional failures are mirrored by the actions of his men, in an ever-downward spiraling cycle.
The essence of the novel is found within Abigailís heart, her difficult path in life and those few years of joy. Gradually, Abigailís life before captivity is revealed, a life in which she was passed from man to man, chattel to each. Only in the four years of her captivity has she known freedom, a freedom now lost to her: ďOf inestimable sorrow, she can bear no more.Ē But the best and most perfect pleasure for this reader is finally learning about Abigailís brief respite with the People, those who love and accept as family She-Who-Was-Dreamed-By-the-Blue-Horse.