My Rating: 4/5
Author: K. B. Laugheed
Title: The Spirit Keeper: A Novel
Genre: Historical Fiction
This is the account of Katie O’Toole, late of Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, removed from her family by savages on March the 2nd in the year of our Lord 1747
The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O’Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.
In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa’s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa’s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life—and heart—forever.
The Spirit Keeper takes place during colonial America – 1747 to be exact. Katie O’Toole is one of many children (most of which had died early in life) from an Irish family. Her life contains many sufferings and hardships. Her father was a drunk, her mother verbally and physically abusive, and her older siblings taking after her parents. She dreams of running away to Philadelphia; but as the book begins, this does not happen. Her village is attacked by Indians. Those who were not killed were bound and forced to travel with the natives. Katie is special through all this. Two Indians, unlike their other companions, treat her differently – separately. Their names sound like Syawa and Hector. They have been searching for Katie and are set to bring her home to their village – a very long way from where they are at.
The story is written in first person – Katie – who tells her story in a ledger. It is not written as a diary per se but rather as someone who is telling a story of what happened to her. Katie is not one to shy away from suffering – her early childhood can attest to that. Her journey with the Indians is not easy as well. First, she doesn’t speak their language. She does not know what they want or why they are treating her differently. Eventually, she will learn their language and communication becomes better. Second, the customs of the Indians are different from her own-for instance, the idea of gift-giving and rudeness. Some customs are easier to grasp than others. Between these two things, misunderstandings are apparent and frequent – some more important than others. Finally, traveling across the (later-to-be) United States is dangerous – people, animals, and the elements. Katie must face her fears and put her trust in complete strangers if she is to survive. She leaves her abusive life in the “civilized world” and must learn a new one in the wilderness of America.
Syawa is considered a holyman of his tribe. His vision of “a creature of fire and ice” leads him and his companion, Hector, to Katie in Pennsylvania. With her Irish red hair and blue eyes, she is exactly what Syawa saw in his visions. As they begin their journey west, Syawa is very patient with Katie. He helps her learn his language and eases her anxiety. Hector is more silent, but one who would protect his friend under any circumstances. They believe that Katie will bring special gift back to their tribe – in which Katie does not believe at all; she doesn’t believe she is special in anyway.
As the book progresses, the trio must face certain troubles on their trek to the west. I have not read many Native American stories, but I think the story stays true to what might have happened in 1746. I was, however, unaware of how far west was known to settlers at the time. I did not think their knowledge of the land was that far. Apparently, it was farther than I thought when I decided to lookup the information.
I think the main strength of the book was the characters. Even though it was mostly just the three, I think they were detailed and multidimensional. The weakness of the book for me was the ending – not so much that there will probably be another book but the final message that I received: Lying is okay. I know that everyone does lie. The message for me was that lying for good reasons is okay. I don’t think this would be a good message for a younger audience who might pick up this book. Perhaps, this will be addressed in the next book – assuming there is one.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. If you love the colonial period and stories that involve Native Americans, you might like this book. I should also add that this book contains what would be a slight paranormal twist (as in visions and other Native American beliefs of spirits and such.) Although it encompasses the main storyline, it is not what I would consider a paranormal read. It seems more of a belief of a culture instead of something supernatural.