A “biographical novel” is a tricky undertaking. The author must hold to the facts while, at the same time, delve into the deeper truths of the inner workings of the subject. Over-reliance on one or the other can tip the scales too much and render the work lopsided and useless as either history or literature.
Win Blevins strikes a perfect balance in Stone Song: A Novel of the Life of Crazy Horse. Extensive research into the history and culture of the Lakota is evident throughout the book, as is his plumbing the depths of the recorded facts about and passed-down memories of Crazy Horse. It all comes together in a striking and engaging portrait of a great man. His strengths and shortcomings play out in a life torn between his duty toward his people, and obedience to the spirit that guides him.
While the well-known events of Crazy Horse’s life are included, such as his leadership at the battle at the Little Bighorn and other fights, Blevins does not hang his story on the extravagant or waste the reader’s time rehashing history. Instead, he concentrates on how those incidents interplay with the more profound and mystical moments in the man’s life that, taken together, reveal his character.
In the end, we see Crazy Horse as a human being much like, and very different from, ourselves. And we come away reminded that, as Blevins renders it in the Lakota language, mitakuye oyasin—we are all related.