Across the Endless River uses three known historical points as a springboard to a novel:
1) The Lewis & Clark expedition into the Louisiana purchase that included a Native American guide and translator named Sacagawea who brought her newborn son on the journey.
2) Said son, John-Baptise Charbonneau, was the guide and translator for Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württemberg on an expedition in Missouri in 1823.
3) John and Paul traveled to Europe and lived there for five years before returning to America in 1829.
Across the Endless River is one author’s imagination of what the 1820s Europe of wealth and privilege would look like when seen for first time through the eyes of a half-Native American and a half-French polygot child. In one sense, the book can be seen as a travelogue, but it is more about coming of age by travel. Baptise crosses the Atlantic for the first time and begins traveling Europe at age eighteen. He is twenty-four by the time he returns to America. Those five years teach Baptise about subterfuge, traveling, blending in, observation, relationships, politics and human behaviors.
The main strength of Across the Endless River is its descriptions, which given the premise are truly fortunate. Occasionally lacking, however, is a sense of alienation, of being between two societies, despite Baptise’s occasional statements about existing there. But Thad Carhart’s descriptions really evoke the excitement of seeing everything anew and with fresh eyes, and match the hardcover’s artwork in beauty.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.