Author Carolyn Meyer has written more than twenty five books for Young Adults. Her book Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker is a historical fiction novel. It is based on the few true facts known of a white child, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann, who is kidnapped by vicious Comanche Indians in a raid on her parents settlement in 1836. Adopted by an Indian family, she is treated poorly at first, but as she learns the Comanche language and gains valuable skills, the people accept her. She goes beyond merely living for survival but learns to accept this way of life and seemingly forgets the vicious terror that has happened to her white family. According to Kirkus Reviews this book is "a skillful examination of how individual identity is determined by cultural and social structures, and of what happens when these are drastically altered." She eventually marries a Comanche chief and has three children, two sons and a daughter.
The author uses the few facts that are available on this true event and weaves in fictional details that add interest, showing life as it could have been for Cynthia Ann. Twenty-four years after her capture by the Indians, she is kidnapped by Texas Rangers who return her to her Uncle, along with her young daughter Prairie Flower. She has very few memories of white people's ways and in the fictionalized version is treated unkindly by many people who can't seem to get past the fact that she is more of an Indian than a white person. The grief and mourning that Cynthia Ann has for her family that she has been torn away from is staggering and incomprehensible for her white family, as told through the voice of a narrator. The chapters flip-flop between narrator and journal entries of Lucy, her young niece who seems to understand Cynthia Ann's profound sadness and relays her observances in her diary. Passed from one family to another, all Cynthia Ann wants is to return to her husband and two sons, but is held against her will.
The book gives a genuine feel for the events happening and the attitudes of the people of the time. The setting for the book is in Texas, which at the time has joined in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. There are no apologies for the use of slaves and the term Negro is used liberally, making an honest portrayal of the attitudes of the Southern people. In the back of the book the author has a note stating the facts that are true and documented and mentions some of the myths that have grown up around the person of Cynthia Ann. In the front of the book there is an actual photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker that adds reality to a story that is all too sad. As the reader turns the last page they cannot help but to feel a profound sadness for this woman who lost so much in her lifetime. She is torn away from her white family. She is ripped away from her Indian family. The only reason that she has left to live, her daughter, is taken away from her in death. This story tells that she starved herself to death after her daughters death, but really she died of a broken heart. That is easy enough to believe. She lost and lost and lost until she simply could no longer live.
Meyer, Carolyn. 1992. WHERE THE BROKEN HEART STILL BEATS. New York: Gulliver Books. ISBN: 0-15-200639-7.
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