2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
While so many historical fiction books line our shelves today, we see very few books that focus on the history of Native Americans. Books of this genre designed for a young adult audience are even rarer to come across. Fortunately, Nicki Royall Peet fills in this missing space on the shelf with her novel The Shaman’s Daughter. The stories of two young Cherokee women are connected across generations, past and present.
The majority of this book focuses on the tale of Cistoo, an athletic, young Cherokee woman who doesn’t fit in with the traditional gender roles of her tribe. She enjoys the more masculine activities such as hunting more than the more feminine activities that she is expected to do with the women. Shunned by her father after her mother’s death from the disease that Cistoo barely survived, Cistoo is taken in by the tribe’s shaman, who believes that the young woman has the potential to be the future shaman of the tribe. Others are not so convinced, and Cistoo has many more obstacles to overcome before she is accepted in such a respectable position within the tribe.
The story also fast-forwards to modern events. A teenaged girl named Lokie protests the government’s plan to tear down a church and relocate a cemetery in order to build a major highway through town. Despite breaking the law and trespassing on government property during her protests, she receives a lot of local support from the church. With her new connections to the church – and thanks to her community service – Lokie manages to dig up (literally) some local history that connects her back to Cistoo.
Aside from a few minor editing mistakes that are hardly noticeable, the writing in this book is excellent. Cistoo’s story is told exactly like I would imagine a traditional Native American tale would be told as dictated in the oral histories passed down from generation to generation. Because of this style, Cistoo’s story is fast-paced and not bogged down with minor details. Years of her life pass in just a few pages. In contrast, the story of the present times is told in a much more modern style and jumps around to follow several different characters, including the protesting Cherokee Lokie, the church pastor, the foreman of the construction crew, and a newspaper reporter.
Despite the excellent writing and unique story-telling style, I found myself having a hard time getting into this book, especially once Cistoo’s story had ended and the modern-day story began. The transition from the past story to the present came along abruptly, and it felt like the flow of the story was interrupted by the modern story rather than enhanced by it. Suddenly, a lot of Christian theology was unexpectedly thrown into the book, which was not at all what I was hoping to read about in a book that was predominantly about the Cherokee peoples of the colonial times. If I had not read the few chapters that comprised the modern-day story, I don’t think I would have been missing anything from the book as a whole. I would have preferred to read more about Cistoo and the obstacles she had to overcome on her journey to becoming the accepted shaman of the tribe as the colonists forced her people out of their homes.
For the above-mentioned reasons, I give The Shaman’s Daughter a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. Young adults who enjoy historical fiction combined with modern fiction would most likely enjoy this book, and I would recommend it to those who have an interest in the traditional lives and spirituality of Native Americans. As for me personally, I would have preferred if it contained only the historical aspects, without the modern story and the Christian preaching.
The Shaman's Daughter
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like ALynnPowers's review? Post a comment saying so!