At the end of the day, I didn’t look forward to picking this one up off my nightstand. So many fellow bibliophiles, my husband included, had praised it as a one-of-a-kind work of nonfiction. And yet, why wasn’t I looking forward to reading it?
I’ve read one other of David Grann’s books, The Lost City of Z, about one man’s fanatical obsession with the mysteries of the Amazon and his equally mysterious disappearance. And I remembered from reading that one, that Grann’s investigate journalism style sometimes overwhelmed me. During the early pages he bleeds a seemingly infinite number of facts, characters, dates, and figures onto the page. It felt like I was running with a speeding train trying to grab hold so I could jump aboard and ride more comfortably for the rest of the story. And Killers of the Flower Moon was no exception.
Although, much like The Lost City of Z, somewhere around 50 to 100 pages into the story I felt like I’d found my bearings and was fully onboard. Yet the book was still hard to read, but for different reasons. Killers of the Flower Moon is a story we’ve buried deep in our history, presumably to forget the evils of 1920’s Osage County, Oklahoma that were a uniquely American brand. After discovering oil on the lands of Osage Indians, who’d been pushed out of every other corner of their homelands, their people were systematically murdered for the ownership of their headrights. The scale of this conspiracy, the unmasked greed, unapologetic lack of remorse, and normalized hatred and racism that proliferates this story is, well, all too familiar. I’d like to say shocking, but maybe that was then. It’s not shocking. This is how our country was born, this is how our country was raised, and this is how our country is growing up.
With all the anxiety I feel about the world we live in, this story just enhanced those feelings. And that’s what made the later pages hard to read even after jumping onboard. But let me be clear, this doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. Despite Grann’s writing style challenging my focus (something I need more often) and really not enjoying hearing tales of such unbridled human self-interest, it was a good book. I didn’t “enjoy” it in the traditional sense, but I liked it. I think it was well written and above all else, it’s a story that’s been hidden for decades and now, more than ever, deserves your attention. Read this story and learn a little more about who we are so that now, and everyday in the future, we can nurture a country that turns away from such horrific treatment of peoples like the Osage Indians.