• Thunder in the Mountains

  • Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War
  • By: Daniel Sharfstein
  • Narrated by: Joe Barrett
  • Length: 18 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (177 ratings)

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Thunder in the Mountains

By: Daniel Sharfstein
Narrated by: Joe Barrett
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Publisher's Summary

Oliver Otis Howard thought he was a man of destiny. Chosen to lead the Freedmen's Bureau after the Civil War, the Union Army general was entrusted with the era's most crucial task: helping millions of former slaves claim the rights of citizens. He was energized by the belief that abolition and Reconstruction, the country's great struggles for liberty and equality, were God's plan for himself and the nation.

But as the nation's politics curdled in the 1870s, General Howard exiled himself from Washington, DC, rejoined the army, and was sent across the continent to command forces in the Pacific Northwest. Shattered by Reconstruction's collapse, he assumed a new mission: forcing Native Americans to become Christian farmers on government reservations. Howard's plans for redemption in the West ran headlong into the resistance of Chief Joseph, a young Nez Perce leader in northeastern Oregon who refused to leave his ancestral land.

Claiming equal rights for Native Americans, Joseph was determined to find his way to the center of American power and convince the government to acknowledge his people's humanity and capacity for citizenship.

©2017 Daniel J. Sharfstein (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"One of the epic tales of American history, rendered by a master storyteller. Daniel Sharfstein breathes new life into the fascinating figures at the heart of the Nez Perce War." (Karl Jacoby, author of The Strange Career of William Ellis)

What listeners say about Thunder in the Mountains

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting but lenghty.

Enjoyed the window into this slice of history. The lead up to the conflict was well explained and thorough. The narrator was very good and contributed to the flow of the book. The narrative however was lengthy in some areas and incomplete in others. So much information was presented about Howard, which ended up being of little advance to the narrative, but also of sub-par general interest. Loved the insight on Joseph's character, but he almost completely dissapears during the most crucial moments of armed conflict. To understand his role during these moments are key, yet we are left wanting. Yellow Wolf takes over during these moments, but again he also dissapears when moments of negotiation and diplomacy arise. Both characters are crucial in Nez Perce history, but yet we lack a continuous account, the other seemingly picking and choosing the moments they appear in his story or, more likely, where he has enough sources to put forward some analysis. He also focuses on Wood, who is himself and much more intriguing character than Howard, but who's impact toward the Nez Perce is almost negligeable. All in all, the author eleborated on Howard and Wood, which is difficult to defend according to the announced theme and title of the book, while the information about the Nez Perce characters have huge gaps.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Even with best intentions, it's an atrocity

This is an engaging, thorough telling of the story of the Nez Perce. Perhaps a bit tangential at times, but it only serves to draw the wider canvas. The book gives a more comprehensive view of members of both sides of the conflict than is usually found.

It details building from what may have been well intentioned, though bigoted and paternalistic, efforts to civilize native peoples, to all-out bloody war when those same native people refuse to accept that the benefits of a free society don't apply to them. How long can people accept murder without chance of redress because of the color of their skin or their choice of spirituality? When that dam breaks, the rationalization of quelling the savage revolt is cast. It's the same story, to a greater or lesser degree, all over the continent.

Of particular interest was that it paints Howard in a sympathetic light, noting his work in the Freedmen's Bureau, though never quite absolving him of the inherent supremacism in his evangelical Christianity. It's very measured and does well to maintain objectivity. But ultimately, the truth is the truth.

5 people found this helpful

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exceptional, emotional, moving

Having always had a soft spot for the native tribes of people that lived (prior to the influx of the white people) in what is now America, this book and the story that unfolds has touched my heart. The notion that white ways are the ONLY ways spells white supremacy through each chapter. Sharfstein's descriptions of war, dress, heritage, land, and culture are picture worthy. Barrett did a masterful job of pronouncing Indian names and places. Learning about Chief Joseph and his tribe and family and all they endured at the hand of General Howard and the US government, all in the name of "killing savagery and creating Christians," has been eye opening to what it means to truly love others as Christ loves us. Forcing others to live as "we" do or think best may not be what's best for them.
this is an excellent book. I very much liked it and was caught up in it on each trip to and from work as I listened.

4 people found this helpful

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A gripping story

Brilliant details bring color and vital depth to this compelling story. Enjoy, ponder, share again.

1 person found this helpful

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Extraordinary history lesson

This book portrays the history of the Nez Perce flight and all the circumstances surrounding that part of the nations history in a way I have never heard before. Detailed but never tedious; a can't put it down until you are done book.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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while very, very long

this is a great story, well told and well written. despite the length I recommend it.

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Balanced, Fair, Fascinating

The book was very well presented. The voice of the narrator was easy on the ears. I appreciated the pronunciation of the Nez Perce names.

This book seems to make a good effort to present a balanced presentation of Joseph and Howard. Neither man was villified or exalted without fault. It seemed to me that Mr. Sharfstein's agenda was truth. Thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Highly recommended.

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Very good

I really enjoyed the book and joe Barrett is wonderful narrator. Well researched I learned a lot. Great appreciation for chief Joseph

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boring my bestfriend is Chief Joesph 4th grdaughte

didn't like it. not the truth. white man version didn't talk to decedents of Joesph

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Paints the ENTIRE Picture!

Yes, this book is very dense and filled with details but I didn't feel like it dragged. If you're truly curious about the time situation and time period, this book with give you provide you with an excellent understanding of the complicated and multi-faceted history of the Nez Perce War. This is an objective and complete look into an often brushed over piece of important American history.

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  • B. C. Furzer
  • 06-09-18

Everyone should read this book

An accomplished work that is a classic. Superbly written, telling of an epic engagement with exceptional character descriptions and giving great food for thought. Superb in every respect.