A Council of Dolls

Longlist, National Book Awards 2023 for Fiction

ISBN 9780063281097
Mariner Books / HarperCollins Publishers
author photo of Mona Susan Power. (Photo credit: Ted Hall)
Mona Susan Power

Mona Susan Power is the author of four books of fiction: The Grass Dancer, a national bestseller awarded a PEN/Hemingway Award; Roofwalker, a collection of stories and essays awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize; Sacred Wilderness, a novel which received the Electa Quinney Award for Published Stories; and A Council of Dolls. More about this author >

Award Years

Award Status

Award Categories

From the publisher:

From the mid-century metropolis of Chicago to the windswept ancestral lands of the Dakota people, to the bleak and brutal Indian boarding schools, A Council of Dolls is the story of three women, told in part through the stories of the dolls they carried:

Sissy, born 1961: Sissy’s relationship with her beautiful and volatile mother is difficult, even dangerous, but her life is also filled with beautiful things, including a new Christmas present, a doll called Ethel. Ethel whispers advice and kindness in Sissy’s ear, and in one especially terrifying moment, maybe even saves Sissy’s life.

Lillian, born 1925: Born in her ancestral lands in a time of terrible change, Lillian clings to her sister, Blanche, and her doll, Mae. When the sisters are forced to attend an “Indian school” far from their home, Blanche refuses to be cowed by the school’s abusive nuns. But when tragedy strikes the sisters, the doll Mae finds her way to defend the girls.

Cora, born 1888: Though she was born into the brutal legacy of the “Indian Wars,” Cora isn’t afraid of the white men who remove her to a school across the country to be “civilized.” When teachers burn her beloved buckskin and beaded doll Winona, Cora discovers that the spirit of Winona may not be entirely lost…

A modern masterpiece, A Council of Dolls is gorgeous, quietly devastating, and ultimately hopeful, shining a light on the echoing damage wrought by Indian boarding schools, and the historical massacres of Indigenous people.