4 out of 4 stars
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Tom suddenly discovers that he is a grandfather when his ex-wife dumps his thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Sarah, on his doorstep. He is in the middle of preparations to go on a hike into the expansive Olympic National Park in the company of his daughter Myra and his father William. His objective is to return the atlatl, an instrument used much like a bow to throw spears, to his grandfather’s grave in the woods and to see the valley for the last time before Buckhorn International starts mining erbium.
There being nobody to stay at home with Sarah, they decide to take her along on the trip despite the risks. Sarah herself is unhappy with the decision and accuses her grandfather of kidnapping her. In the forest, they encounter a group of surveyors making their way into the mountains. They exchange pleasantries.
After a long and arduous climb, they get to the makeshift grave of Tom’s grandfather. Myra, a conservationist at heart, is angry with her father that he had dared take the atlatl away from the forest. It turns out that the atlatl is an artifact that could be used to argue a case against the imminent mining in the forest. But according to Myra it was against their tradition to take away such things from the forest. In the end, they agree that it would be wise not to leave it behind so that they could use it to argue the conservation case.
Back at the camp, an angry Sarah, takes the atlatl and runs away. An agonizing eight-day search ensues. One of the surveyors joins them in the search but the others decline; however, they agree to call in help. Rangers move in with a helicopter to no avail. Eventually the search party gives up on the seventh day, partly because their efforts look futile and partly because a storm is approaching.
Tom however refuses to give up. He and William split up from Myra and the surveyor and they continue their search in the driving rain. On the eighth day, Sarah returns to him muddied and injured and with an incredible story of where she had been.
I rate this book four out of four stars; it’s fiction with a strong element of fantasy. The novel deals with issues close to the hearts of many people. For example, the quest for an identity is one that has been with the human race for a long time. But the native Indians are asking for more than the knowledge of their ancestry; they are involved in the modern struggle of commerce and environmental preservation. Many people will identify with this theme as the world now focuses on sustainable development.
Further, human conflict is a theme that runs through the novel and not without the attendance violence. Although we find the depiction of violence disturbing, it is a reality that we cannot sweep under the carpet. The author handles violence with a subtlety that is welcome.
The characters in the story are realistic and Sarah’s obstinate streak is consistent with her role of one who champions for respect not just for the individual but also a race. This stubborn streak is also evident in Tom and it plays a major role in the advancement of Sarah’s adventure and the realization of the hopeful note for her people at the end of the novel.
The major style in this novel is the use of dream. This draws the reader into the world of fantasy. We all have our fantasies whether realizable or not. The challenge of fighting the establishment is not an easy one. The dream in this story helps to bring out this fact besides establishing the natives’ right to ask the government to keep the forest in its pristine state. This is a noble goal.
Further, you will also enjoy the author’s use of onomatopoeia. The novel is replete with onomatopoeic words like thunk, crackle, boom etc. The use of metaphor and personification make for wonderful reading.
Although the novel ends in a hopeful note, I was a little disappointed with the lack of success on the part of Tom and his party when they faced the avaricious surveyors. They arm themselves with all sorts of digital devices to document the existence of the atlatl but the surveyors destroy it all as well as the artifact.
If you are an adventure lover, this will make a wonderful read. I also encourage environmental conservationists to indulge themselves by reading this book.
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