A Council of Dolls
From the mid-century metropolis of Chicago to the windswept ancestral lands of the Dakota people, to the bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools, A Council of Dolls is the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried….
Sissy, born 1961: Sissy’s relationship with her beautiful and volatile mother is difficult, even dangerous, but her life is also filled with beautiful things, including a new Christmas present, a doll called Ethel. Ethel whispers advice and kindness in Sissy’s ear, and in one especially terrifying moment, maybe even saves Sissy’s life.
Lillian, born 1925: Born in her ancestral lands in a time of terrible change, Lillian clings to her sister, Blanche, and her doll, Mae. When the sisters are forced to attend an “Indian boarding school” far from their home, Blanche refuses to be cowed by the school’s abusive nuns. But when tragedy strikes the sisters, the doll Mae finds her way to defend the girls.
Cora, born 1888: Though she was born into the brutal legacy of the “Indian Wars,” Cora isn’t afraid of the white men who remove her to a school across the country to be “civilized.” When teachers burn her beloved buckskin and beaded doll Winona, Cora discovers that the spirit of Winona may not be entirely lost…
A modern masterpiece, A Council of Dolls is gorgeous, quietly devastating, and ultimately hopeful, shining a light on the echoing damage wrought by Indian boarding schools, and the historical massacres of Indigenous people. With stunning prose, Mona Susan Power weaves a spell of love and healing that comes alive on the page.
"A Council of Dolls absorbs through the skin, enters the bone, and disperses through the psyche—it perfectly captures the internal roots of the Native experience. Through the lives of three Dakota women, we grapple with the emotional, psychological, and spiritual toll on Indigenous peoples enduring an often brutal system and, moreover, how strength, healing, and love reverberate down each passing generation to dispense hope and resiliency. Crafted with unique voices and a powerfully executed structure. Chills ran down my arms as this brilliant novel summoned the spirit of Zitkala-ša. I cannot more highly recommend Power’s newest masterpiece.”
—Oscar Hokeah, author of Calling for a Blanket Dance
"This heartstopper of a book reached out, grabbed me, and did not let go. Power’s ability to make language sing, cry, scream, and laugh illuminates this book that shines a light into the dark corners of America’s history. Read it—and be healed.”
—Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of The Evening Hero
“A Council of Dolls is resplendent and deeply compelling—a mighty, dazzling whirlwind of powerful storytelling. I wanted to
read quickly, but was magnetized by the power of each voice. The stories lift from the page. Prepare to stay up all night. Mona Susan Power is at the height of her literary powers.”
—Debra Magpie Earling,
author of The Lost Journals of Sacajewea
"Mona Susan Power’s new novel is an honor song to the love and strength of Native families and our stories, to our brilliant selves. I couldn’t have known how much I needed the wisdom and offerings of these pages. Toward the novel’s close, one character tells us—'Words can undo us or restore us to wholeness. I pray that mine will be medicine.'
A Council of Dolls is medicine that will endure."
—Kelli Jo Ford,
author of Crooked Hallelujah
"Mona Susan Power writes with dazzling empathy. The result is
a heartrending and many-layered narrative, a captivating story which is also a thrilling testimonial to the power of stories. This tender and magical novel will stay with me for a long time.”
—Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field
"A work of exquisite beauty and courageous truth-telling, A Council of Dolls carries the reader through multiple generations of trauma while bravely staring down the hard facts of history. Told by a convincing chorus of memorable child narrators, the novel chronicles the injustice of the Indian boarding schools and the long shadow of sorrow that follows the survivors. An unforgettable homage to ancestral suffering and strength."
author of Evidence of V