Conflict raged on the South Carolina frontier in the 1760s. Angry about white settlers encroaching on their land and about Virginia settlers’ murder of warriors returning from fighting for the British cause in the French and Indian War, the Cherokee waged war on backcountry settlers. Many whites on the sparsely-settled frontier found themselves the targets of Cherokee raids.
The Last Sister tells the story of one such settler. On the morning of her seventeenth birthday, Catie Blair sneaked out of her family’s cabin to go hunting with her brothers. Unlike her genteel Scots-Irish mother, Catie embraced the ruggedness of frontier life. That morning, as she begged her older brother to allow her to practice using his rifle, the threesome heard alarming sounds from the direction of their cabin. The older brother’s scouting mission revealed that both the Blair parents had been murdered, and their homestead set on fire, apparently by the vengeful Cherokee.
Or did the Cherokee do it? The Last Sister follows Catie’s quest to reach a safe haven with her younger brother and then her quest to find and punish the men responsible for the murder of her family.
I first read this book in manuscript form last summer because the University of South Carolina Press asked me to blurb it. I couldn’t put the novel down. The Anglo-Cherokee War sowed seeds of disruption that helped shape the outcome of the American Revolution in the southern backcountry, and I had written about the conflict in my book The Battles of Kings Mountain and Cowpens. I was impressed with author Courtney McKinney-Whitaker’s meticulous research and the skillful way she wove the historical details smoothly into her story. Here’s what I wrote in the book blurb:
In The Last Sister Courtney McKinney-Whitaker has crafted a riveting account of life in backcountry South Carolina during the devastating Anglo-Cherokee War of 1759–60. This carefully researched book is so compelling that I read it in a single sitting. Catriona Blair courageously negotiates a perilous world where it is hard to know who is an enemy and who is a friend. Along the way, she finds love and crosses the threshold from childhood to adulthood.
Because the book puts a human face on an important set of events in southern history, I assigned it to my American Revolution in the Southern Backcountry course, and the students found it as compelling a read as I did.
The Last Sister is billed as YA fiction, and it is a coming of age story. I think it’s a story that will engage readers of all ages. If you want a page-turner about a resourceful, intelligent, and all too human young woman, I recommend The Last Sister (University of South Carolina Press, 2014).
And to learn more about the Anglo-Cherokee War and the subsequent events of the American Revolution in the backcountry, check out these works.