Killers of the Flower Moon

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Initially I was excited about this selection, because I'd recently read an article in the newspaper about a similar subject and I wanted to get the historical perspective on the situation. I mistakenly thought this book was historical fiction, which is my favorite genre. I was fooled for the first two chapters. Then, all of a sudden, as the third chapter began, the book became as dry as a history textbook, or, since I listened to a lot on audio, a history lecture. The man who starts reading the audio book for Chronicle (Part) 2 has a horrible voice. It's like if Richard Nixon were from Texas reading a crime detective novel with a mouthful of oatmeal and trying to imitate Al Sharpton. What you miss on the audio book are all the pictures that are included in print but not even mentioned on the audio.

I can sum this book up in three words: people are greedy.
There, now you can spend your time with a more enjoyable book, because that's about all you'll get from this book. If you are still reading through page 5 you'll get an understanding of the title. So there you go, title explained, nothing left to wonder about. There is nothing fun left in the book.

The book is set in the early 1900s near the Osage Indian settlement at Gray Horse, Oklahoma. (ePg. 5) The Osage were in this location because fifty years earlier they had been driven to this less-desirable land in northeastern Oklahoma from their better land in Kansas. However, the joke was on the people who pushed them out of Kansas, since the Okie land wound up being on top of a huge oil deposit which provided a steady stream of income for the Osage. (Ch. 1, ePg. 6, loc. 103)

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 0

Religion: 2

Gruesome: 2

Suspense: 2

Morality: 2

Traditional: 2

Sex - nothing to report

Religion - a man, who we later learn is a thief, is described as working "with the fever of someone who feared not only hunger but an Old Testament God who, at any moment, might punish him like Job." (Ch. 3, ePg. 27, loc. 394) Dad prayed every morning. Family followed a mixture of Osage and Catholic beliefs. Mollie questioned why God would send her a different man to love. Examples of Osage religion such as putting three days worth of food in a coffin at a funeral. There are some mentions of Mollie following the traditional Osage religion. (Ch. 18, ePg. 182, loc. 2486) A reference to a lecture titled "The Trial of Jesus Christ from a Lawyer's Standpoint". (Ch. 19, ePg. 199, loc. 2738)

Gruesome - a description of the effects / symptoms of a poisoning. (Ch. 5, ePg. 67, loc. 961) Found dead bodies, minor details. Prolonged hanging (Ch. 13)

Suspense - there was a little suspense regarding who was masterminding the killings of the Osage. Ch. 21, ePg. 236, loc. 3302) provides a little additional suspense when it implies that there is more to the story that has not been revealed yet.

Morality - A reference to J. Edgar Hoover having been in charge of people who "spied on individuals merely because of their political beliefs." (Ch. 8, ePg. 107, loc. 1482) A reference to considering a murder of an Osage as merely "cruelty to animals". (Ch. 20, ePg. 215, loc. 2973) The general, over-arching theme of who is systematically killing the Osage and the motivation behind the killings.

Traditional - Several mixed marriages between Osage and Whites. In one case, Ernest, a white man was married to Mollie, an Osage woman, and allowed his aunt to "spew[] racist notions about Indians". (Ch. 1, ePg. 12, loc. 178) A servant's testimony implies a man beat his wife. (Ch. 5, ePg. 63, loc. 907) An Osage man, Peace, suspected that his white wife was poisoning him. (Ch. 26, ePg. 290, loc. 3962)

When I began reading the book, I highlighted the titles on the "Also by David Grann" page because they also sounded interesting. After sludging through this desert of a book - I think I'll pass on the others. There seem to be a lot of extraneous characters. This novel does not just focus on the Osage but anyone vaguely related to the Osage, like Panzram's execution. Yes, it was the first person that White killed and White was connected to the Osage, but why do we need to know about Panzram?

Discussion Questions

Early in the book it talks about how the Osage had servants that were Black, Mexican, or White to do the things that they would not deem to do. Contemplate how money affects people, regardless of culture.

What was unique about Molly that made her want to continue in the Osage tradition, including clothing? Even though she fell in love with a white man, and her sisters had married white men, she contemplated marrying an Osage man. She questioned why God would send her a different man to love.

(Ch. 6) Discuss the practice of assigning guardians to full-blooded Osage. Does this remind you of the 2021 situation with Britney Spears?

J. Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI for almost 50 years. (Ch. 8, ePg. 107, loc. 1492). Would someone be able to hold such a position for fifty years today? Is it good or bad to have someone in such a position for that long of time?

Did you enjoy the pictures? Were there any that surprised you?

In Chapter 14 we begin to be presented with the idea that Hale is the mastermind behind all the murders. Did you believe it was Hale? Did you think that Molly's husband, Ernest, was aware of the grand plot? Did Ernest marry Molly before or after he knew of the plot, if he did?

Towards the end of the murder trial, "The judge advised the jury members that they must set aside sympathies or prejudices for either side. He warned, 'There never has been a country on this earth that has fallen except when that point was reached... where the citizens would say, "We cannot get justice in our courts".' "(Ch. 20, ePg. 219, loc. 3043) Have courts maintained this integrity one-hundred years later?

Ch. 22, ePg. 245, loc. 3367: To believe that the Osages survived intact from their ordeal is a delusion of the mind. What has been possible to salvage has been saved and is dearer to our hearts because it survived. What is gone is treasured because it was what we once were. We gather our past and present into the depths of our being and face tomorrow. We are still Osage. We live and we reach old age for our forefathers." Is this a healthy perspective? Should others apply it to their lives too?

Do you think some of the Osage were resentful of the people who chose to marry outside of the tribe (white people), especially in hindsight?

Mollie was married three times (Roan, Burkhart, and Cobb). Why did her headstone in Chapter 22 just say Burkhart?

Theme Ideas

Decorate with flowers because the book opens with a description of flowers in nature. (ePg. 5, loc. 86)

Serve a poached egg on toast like J. Edgar Hoover liked. (Ch. 19)

Watch Osage Dance Videos on YouTube. (Ch. 22, ePg. 245, loc. 3378)