Miette has no desire to meet the mother who discarded her, a woman she knows only as an infamous soldier, drinker, and exhibition shooter: Martha Canary, made notorious as Calamity Jane. But Miette’s beloved adoptive father makes a deathbed request that the two be reunited: “You have to do it . . . Promise me you will not change your mind. I know that you’ve heard sickening things and those things are all true but I’m sure she wants to know you.”
Keen to honor her father’s wishes, Miette traverses the Badlands of the North American West, searching for her mother across a landscape occupied by strangers, ghosts, and animals. On her journey she meets an old lover of her father’s, a man who claims to be her brother, an imposter she thinks is her mother, the Negro minstrel Lew Spencer, a kind madam who is her mother’s best friend, a wolf who longs to protect her, and many others.
Woven into Miette’s journey are the stories of Jane as told in legends, history books, and dime store novels; by her friends and enemies; and by the woman herself. The many ephemeral truths of these tales come together and Miette must decide whether to forgive the woman who had forsaken her for a life of danger and adventure. In Calamity’s Wake vividly recalls one of the most colorful icons in America’s history.