Advent starts Sunday, and lots of folks have already started posting great lists of Advent and Christmas books. Next week's WWRW is going to be an Advent/Christmas themed link-up.
If you're like Charlotte, you're done with Christmas shopping anyway. If you're like me, you know you live with fickle minds and won't start shopping until after Gaudete Sunday.
Either way, you should have plenty of time to set up the Jesse tree, dig out the Advent wreath, start you Advent calendar of choice, AND share your family's Christmas book favorites.
If you're like Kendra and already wrote a post on this topic recently, or you're like Micaela and have one from an Advent Past, it's blogger's choice. Feel free to link-up your lists from before, or just link up What You've Actually Been Reading. No rules, no penalties.
Now for today's book review. It's a doozy, folks. Bear with me.
Ghost Hawk by THE Susan Cooper (you know, Susan Cooper of the legendary The Dark Is Rising series) was a timely choice for me. I picked up this title because it was on the newly published shelf at the library, but it really works for WWRW because it is about Native Americans at the time of the Mayflower, the development of Plymouth. Squanto of the First Thanksgiving is actually a minor character.
Ghost Hawk is the story of Little Hawk. We first meet Little Hawk, his family, and his Pokanoket tribe as he prepares for his three months journey into the woods, at the darkest time of the year, to meet his Manitou, and prove his manhood, merely by surviving.
This is the original Man vs. Wild. He is only allowed to take his knife and his tomahawk, the clothing he wears, as well as his mocassins.
I had heard of this tradition before, but I never realized that the boys proving their manhood WERE ONLY ELEVEN YEARS OLD! Yes, Little Hawk is only eleven.
He does survive the three months, despite an encounter with a wolf that leaves him badly disfigured.
SPOILER: When he returns to his village, he discovers tragedy...brought by the white man's plague. Disease has laid low his village. The few survivors band together with others to form a new village, one in which Little Hawk is no longer treated as a boy, but as a man.
Little Hawk and his people are brought into greater and greater contact with the white men. Squanto brings a settler and his young son, John Wakefield, to the Pokanokets to learn how to catch the running salmon, and how to use the salmon to fertilize the crops.
The relationship between the natives and the settlers is tenuous. Neither side understands the other's customs. While other tribes are portrayed and violent and vengeful, the Pokanokets, under the leadership of Yellow Feather, maintain peaceful relations with the colonists. The colonist are definitely shown as "Shoot first, why ask questions? They are just savage heathens." people, with a few notable exceptions.
ANOTHER SPOILER: When John Wakefield's father is trapped by a felled tree, and Little Hawk happens to be nearby, John calls to him by name for help. Little Hawk raises his tomahawk to free John's father, and takes a musket blast to the chest from some settlers who thought he was going to scalp the man and his son.
This is the point where the story of Little Hawk becomes the story of John Wakefield.
Ten year old John is haunted by grief and guilt over what took place that day. He takes Little Hawk's tomahawk with him and buries it near his cabin. No adults in the settlement will listen to him however. The shooter maintains his innocence. The Pokanokets do not retaliate, but recover Little Hawk's body.
John's mother re-marries the very man who shot Little Hawk. Tensions between John and his step-father never resolve and young John is sent to Plymouth to be an apprentice cooper. In Plymouth, John first hears the Separatist preacher, Roger Williams, who is historically responsible for being the first to insist that the English settlers pay the tribes for land.
Susan Cooper plays out the irony of a people who left the Church of England seeking religious freedom, only to forbid religious freedom in their New World. The cruelty of the Calvinist belief system is striking. Natives are savages, and even the ones who convert to Christianity will most likely not be saved. Roger Williams tolerance of the tribes is so dangerous to the Puritan governments that he is exiled from Boston and Plymouth, forming his own colony of Providence Plantation and the Baptist religion.
John Wakefield grows up a skillful tradesman, and takes his new bride to Providence. He has never forgotten his friend, Little Hawk.
On a visit to Boston, John, his son, and an elderly Baptist friend have a religious service in a private home. They are arrested and fined, or in John's case, publicly whipped thirty lashes. Cooper acknowledges in her notes that this scene is based on an historical event.
The book is extremely well-written, as Cooper's books always are. But it gave me a sour taste for pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. I discussed this book in great length with Patrick, and his take on my experience, is that my Catholic conscience naturally reviles Puritan/Calvinist ideals. The Calvinist tenet of pre-destination does not allow for the Native American convert to be treated as an equal.
Interestingly, I saw this article and this one yesterday revealing that there was one Catholic at the first Thanksgiving and his name was Squanto.
Ghost Hawk is appropriate for all strong readers, but some of the weighty subject matter (murder vs. self defense, personal freedom, religious freedom, ghosts...didn't I mention that for half of the book, Little Hawk is ghost sometimes appearing to John?) makes it ideal for junior high or older.
I have another book to review, but it's subject matter is even weightier, so my review of Unhooking the Moon will have to wait at least two weeks...seeing as how next week is Christmas books on WWRW.