Tag: book review

Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story

Welcome to Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story by Carmen Peone

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing a Women Writing the West® member and author friend, Carmen Peone, and her novel Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story. I read this novel last week and found it not only an intriguing survival tale, but also a believable and engaging coming-of-age story.

Clearly Carmen has history parenting, teaching or otherwise guiding teenaged boys! She captures the language and nuances of growing friendship, emerging Christian faith and everyday conflict among 16-year-olds. She’s also done her historical and cultural research, which I respect immensely. This historical novel comes alive in her well-crafted words.

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Summary: In a time when the west was still untamed, sixteen-year-old Delbert Gardner leads two friends into the backcountry for a three-day adventure. Little did they know three days of hunting and fishing would turn into eight days of near starvation, injury and illness. When hope of returning home seems out of reach, Delbert recalls watching his Native American friends construct a fishing weir and sets out to build one himself. To him, it is the only way out.

A Story that Begins with Family

Carmen Peone has family history among the Colville Tribes and spent a great deal of time gathering information from tribal members and history about something I’d never heard of . . . a fishing weir, a fencing and net apparatus used to capture fish in rivers and streams.

Native Fishing Weirs and the Columbia River

Carmen shared with me these insights to fishing and weirs in Native life along the Columbia River:

“For the Plateau Natives, salmon was the main staple. That is until Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1942. In the final draft of the plans for the dam, a fish ladder was omitted. Since then, salmon have ceased the 700-mile migration to the Kettle Falls to spawn.

“Elders talk of young warriors standing out over the falls on wooden platforms with large nets catching those salmon that were too weak to jump the 50-foot falls prior to the dam’s construction.

“Legends, including how Coyote brought salmon to the people from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Arrow Lakes band of the Colville Tribes, have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries in an oral tradition. Those legends have now been recorded and can be found on the tribe’s website: colvilletribes.com. Sons and daughters of elders are currently recording legends so the flames that keep culture brightly burning in the hearts of the people remain alive.  Tradition and culture are fading as young people’s interests have turned to technology and the future.

weir-1“The Colville Tribe is sinking its hooks into the past, dragging tradition along, breathing new life into an almost forgotten slice of culture–fence-style weir fishing. I have managed to dredge this custom from the bottom of the river, helping the tribes bring it into the forefront with a new young adult fiction book titled Delbert’s Weir.

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“Four years ago, Tribal Fish and Wildlife erected an aluminum fence style fishing weir and stretched it across the Okanogan River near Omak, WA. They now catch thousands of salmon each summer, filleting and freezing the meat for tribal members and their families. It may not be wind dried like the old days, but it is a way of providing traditional food to the people. The fishing weir is the inspiration of my book Delbert’s Weir. The weir in my book is actually made of cottonwood, the traditional wood used in this area. My character uses horsehair to tie the poles together. Indian hemp or the inner fibers of cattail stock or tule were used as well. Both fibers were also used to make fish nets.”

I appreciate Carmen’s presence  on my blog, and I highly recommend Delbert’s Weir to those adults and young adults interested in Pacific Northwest Native histories and traditions. It’s a great read for deepening historical understanding of the Colville Tribes and insight to their relationships with the earth and water. It also could be used to prompt discussion about how environmental changes and government water management policies deeply affect diverse communities’ traditions and food resources. All in all, Delbert’s Weir is a well-told story of finding one’s courage to survive, with a can’t-put-it-down opportunity for deep learning across cultures.

An Excerpt from Delbert’s Weir:

He watched the leaves of the quaking aspen ripple in the breeze as if to encourage him. “Get up. Keep going,” is what they seemed to say. His mind flashed images of him watching Pekam. He and some other men walked up a stream and pushed fish toward traps. The same traps he’d made.

Delbert jumped to his feet and sprinted to camp. He shook each tent, even his own in the wake of excitement and yelled, “Get up!”

Jed popped his head out first, a grumpy frown on his face.

Ross attempted to open his blinking eyes.

“Come on. Get dressed. Daylights a burnin’. We’ve got work to do.”

Ross rolled over on his back and groaned. “What’re you babbling about?”

“The traps are empty, but I have a plan.” Delbert shook the tents until the boys crawled out. “Pekam spoke to me. No, God did, through Pekam.”

Jed’s sleepy eyes strained to focus. “What?”

“This better be worth it,” Ross sneered.

“I was sure there would be fish in at least one of them. But listen, when I was young, I saw Pekam and his pals walk up a creek toward different types of fish traps filling ‘em pretty fast. I think we should try it. It’s like herding cattle, but with fish. In water.”

“Now?” Jed complained. “Can’t we at least give the horses a drink first?”

Delbert turned his attention to Jed. “When did you start caring about the horses’ well-being?” Delbert felt hair on the back of his neck spike outward, so he spoke in a calm, slow tone, “Did you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you. Did you hear me? It’s early. I wanna finish sleepin’.”

“Sure ya do.” Ross walked off.

“Hey, we can water the horses. Then how ‘bout trying to catch some breakfast.  How’d ya like worms for breakfast?  If you’re really fast, maybe you can snatch a grasshopper or two with a flick of your tongue.  I’ll start callin’ ya frog, or does toad suit ya?  Or would ya like to go on a Sunday afternoon stroll?” Delbert felt his patience leave his body as quickly as his last meal disappeared from his fish-oiled fingers.

Ross glared at him.

Delbert held out his hands. “You got a better idea? We’re outta of food. You think it’s gonna magically drop on our plates, cooked and all?” His tone sounded as impatient as a hungry wolf.

“Well, no…” Ross slouched and rubbed his eyes.

“Well, let’s get goin’.” Delbert marched toward the beach. He sat on the cool, damp sand, tore off his boots, and rolled up his pants. He slid the tip of his toe in and shivered.

Jed grunted and followed. He sat beside Delbert and peeled off his socks.

Ross straggled behind. He sat a spell before he yanked off his boots and rolled up his pants, grumbling about the injustice. “Maybe we need to cut off the legs of our britches. I have a feeling we may be in there–a lot.” He tilted his head toward the creek.

Delbert stared at his bare feet. No need to stir those two up any more than they already are. “Okay. Let’s walk downstream a ways, check things out, and meander back up.”

“Yep.” Ross’s eyebrow twitched. “Whatever you say, boss.”

Ross’ll be eatin’ his words soon enough.

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Author Bio:

Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988 gleaning knowledge from family and friends.  She had worked with tribal elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes-Sinyekst- Language and various cultural traditions and legends. She has owned and trained her horses for thirteen years and competed in local Extreme Challenge Competitions for three years.  She lives with her husband and tribal member Joe.  They have four grown sons who are also tribal members and seven grandchildren.  With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons.

Buy Links for Delbert’s Weir:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=carmen+peone

Barns and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/carmen+peone?_requestid=709814

Carmen Peone’s Links to Social Media:

Website and blog: http://carmenpeone.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862063.Carmen_Peone

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarmenEPeone/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carmenpeone

About me: http://carmenpeone.com/about/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Carmen-Peone/e/B00A92O4R4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1451363711&sr=8-1

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=AAIAAAc0cLgBl2D1zC4yDzz9aHb0cyvqDneZFA0&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/carmenpeone/

 

 

 

 

Náápiikoan Winter: Book Review

Náápiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams

When one nation strives to dominate another for economic gain, more than money is at stake. Cultures, lives, passions, traditions and human needs also fall in sacrifice. This realization resonates through the deeply-woven story line and intriguing characters of Alethea Williams’s novel, Náápiikoan Winter.

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As we writers do when we deliver a new novel, Alethea Williams provided a review copy of this book for my consideration. Although I don’t know Ms. Williams personally, I offered to review her book because I read primarily historical fiction about the Great Plains and American West. When I do, I look for that magical blend of re-examined history and story, careful truth and colorful imagination. In short, a believable story well told.

Náápiikoan Winter is an ambitious novel; it sets out to portray an epic view in very personal detail. It captures a turning point in the American West when Native tribes face the crisis of aggressive English and French trading and exploration. This novel succeeds, through well-integrated research, in making this intense, global crisis feel immediate and personal. Several characters bond and clash to demonstrate the spiritual and material treasures at stake for Native and European interests at the turn of the 19th Century, on the as-yet uncharted North American continent.

Strong Characters Collide

The first key character in the book is a young Mexican girl who grows into one of the significant women in this story, Buffalo Stone Woman. I won’t spoil the plot, but young Isobel undergoes personal and cultural trauma and transformations. After a strong introduction to Isobel, the author only hints at most of her adolescent changes, but they ultimately situate Isobel to sense oncoming disaster and try to save her adopted Pììkáni tribe.

The second key character is Donal Thomas, a Náápiikoan (meaning Old Man Person, a term given by the Siksikà to White traders, out of respect for their many wonders). The seventeen-year-old boy, indentured to the Hudson Bay Company for seven years, is sent against his will to the Rocky Mountains to learn and to trade. He is a fascinating character, depicted well from within (ambitious, yet traumatized by his childhood), and through the eyes of Native characters. I found Donal believable as he naively and unwittingly precipitates several levels of social, spiritual and domestic disaster for the Pììkáni, who welcome and host him for the winter.

Ms. Williams develops many other Native characters into clear and interesting individuals who struggle for tribal status, safety or love. One of particular interest and beauty is Sweetgrass Woman, a credible teenage girl who longs for respectability and self-determination in a tribal culture that has already decided her domestic role. Her confused attempt for spiritual autonomy through association with Buffalo Stone Woman is particularly touching. I also appreciate the depth and complexity of Bear Dog, who could have easily remained a one-dimensional “bad guy,” yet he, with his devious longing for acceptance, feels complex and human. Also deeply satisfying is the character of Saahkómaapi, the elderly dreamer who squabbles with his wife, hungers for more women, and risks everything to protect his people’s medicine from Náápiikoan.

A Wild, Believable West

Náápiikoan Winter doesn’t romanticize tribal or individual behavior or suffering. Complex tribal and inter-tribal politics, family rivalries, and White disruption of these dynamics—all are well-depicted, often through tense, yet subtle confrontations. Several well-drawn secondary characters sense, but don’t know how to resist, the looming “white wings” of the traders and the civilization they signify. The goods and relationships the traders bring to the tribe are attractive, yet unrelentingly erode Pììkáni religion, leadership, decision-making and survival through this one Náápiikoan winter, and through those to come.

The Writer’s Strength

In addition to her intuitively-integrated research, one aspect of storytelling Ms. Williams manages well is what I’ve learned to call “knowledge gaps.” She skillfully withholds and manages key information, giving the characters and reader just enough knowledge, but keeping all in the dark for just long enough, to keep the pages turning.

When I closed the covers of Náápiikoan Winter, I felt a sense of loss for a time in history. I felt a connection to place, and regret for characters and cultures who would have no happy-ever-after, romantic ending. I respected the author for not glossing over a hard telling of a story that seemed true, both in facts and in details. I felt the dust of the past clinging to me. I had that echo—of living character voices and cultures intimately experienced—that I get from fine historical fiction.

Recommendation

I highly recommend Náápiikoan Winter to readers who like strongly-researched fiction about the clash of cultures and diverse individuals, in North American history.

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Alethea Williams, author

Alethea Will

Náápiikoan Winter may be purchased at:

Barnes and Noble online: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/naapiikoan-winter-alethea-williams/1123779705?ean=9781532710568

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Naapiikoan-Winter-Alethea-Williams-ebook/dp/B01EIQNCMO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472572992&sr=8-1&keywords=naapiikoan-winter-alethea-williams

Read more about Alethea’s work at: http://actuallyalethea.blogspot.com

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.
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This review is based on a pre-release reading of the uncorrected, “galley” proof provided to me by goodreads. Novel Release Date: June 5, 2012.

I just finished an early taste of summer vacation, with a rich and engaging book. Nichole Bernier’s debut novel, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., is a brave and breathtaking story about the subtle natures and interplay of womanhood, parenting, marriage and friendship.

The story begins as Kate Spenser, her husband, Chris, and their two young children begin their seven-week vacation at the beach. Kate is still processing the death of her friend, Elizabeth Martin, the victim of a plane crash in Queens that is abruptly overshadowed by the disasters of 9/11. As she mourns her friend, Kate also finds herself responsible for Elizabeth’s secrets and legacy; Elizabeth directed in her will that Kate alone receive the locked, antique trunk that holds Elizabeth’s journals.

Kate, although a reluctant interpreter of her friend’s written life, takes the responsibility seriously. Her commitment to reading Elizabeth’s journals influences not only her memories, but raises questions about Kate’s own decisions and marriage. Her fascination, which borders on obsession (as mine did, reading “over her shoulder”), stirs Kate into uneasiness. While ruffling the surface of her marriage, the responsibility also places her at odds with Dave, Elizabeth’s surviving husband, who struggles with his own suspicions about Elizabeth.

This story begins as an intriguing mystery about Elizabeth–her personality, relationships, changes and affections. Yet, this mystery is only the wrapping that conceals other, more tender dilemmas for the reader to unfold. Through her strong characters, striking observations and deep insights, the author leads us to ponder the dedication it takes to endure uncertainty; about the people we love, about seemingly random events and the “mere” coincidences that make the difference between life and death. The greatest mystery I savored in this moving story is the immeasurable cost of secrets, which protect, torment and shape us.

Nichole Bernier draws the reader into Kate’s private, conscientious point of view. Reflecting on her deceased friend, Kate considers that some people “don’t fit into a box. They grow to infiltrate everything, and when they suddenly go missing, they are missing everywhere.” In another post- 9/11 moment, Kate considers that, as for having a third child, “It seemed a dangerous thing, having more children than hands.” (Out of respect for the uncorrected proof status of my galley, I won’t quote more than this…although I could go on and on with great pleasure, thanks to many “aha” moments of literary and emotional resonance.) The author rings true with her characters and a timeless consideration of the dangers of love, in its many mysterious forms.

Please find more information on the author, book excerpts, the first chapter, release date and where to purchase at: Nichole Bernier’s blog and her author website. Thanks to goodreads for drawing my name out of the great hat of cyberspace. I will post this review on their site, as well.