Grace Howard, a Lakota woman from the Pine Ridge reservation, makes it to the brink of stardom as a rock singer when drug addiction destroys everything. The catalyst to get clean comes with the birth of her physically deformed son, Jamie. Twelve years later, she is singing in a North Dakota bar to help pay for his ongoing medical treatment when a power surge through her microphone triggers a vision and she hears the music that will change her life forever.
Jamie, a budding poet, simultaneously has a strange dream and begins to produce lyrics of a standard beyond his years. The supernatural experiences of mother and son ignite a special songwriting partnership and they begin to craft an album that melds the songs of a Lakota ancestor and other cultural music with modern rock – a combination that eventually rockets to the top of the charts. Long estranged from her people, Grace is compelled to make peace with her past as her music gains popularity. She returns to Pine Ridge and learns of the desecration of her musician-ancestor’s spiritual resting place by the construction of a golf course. Enraged, she decides to use the music’s popularity to try to stop the development, setting in motion a series of events that will test the strength of her soul and put the lives of everyone she holds dear on the line.
A heartfelt exploration of the resurrection of cultural and personal spirit, Song Catcher examines the clash between European and indigenous cultures with bracing honesty. A haunting, compelling story full of the synchronicities of life and powers we can neither see nor touch, it is as heartbreaking as it is transformative.
Grace put on her coat and gloves and walked to the door, but just as she was about to open it she heard a slight noise from behind her; a rustle of sheets followed by the sound of something falling off the bed. She turned around and looked at Jamie. He lay as still as she had left him, eyes closed and breathing deeply. Then she saw a small notebook lying on the floor. It was one of those Jamie wrote his poetry in, always with him no matter where he was. She walked over and picked it up. It was flipped open to a page where there was some verse scrawled and she held it under the bedside lamp to see what he had written. She began to read the words with the expectation that it was another juvenile composition about all the things that pleased or upset his young mind. The first line instantly wiped out her presumption and as she read through the others they began to sing to her.
He is a song catcher
A warrior of the soul
He has come to join the battle
He has come to draw the bow
Music is the arrow
Let him fire it through your mind
And may the heart that is strong catch his songs
and sing them for all that has died
Suddenly, the striking melody from Jimmy’s was running through Grace’s mind once more, joining the rhythm of the verse as perfectly as a glove sliding over a hand. For the second time that night she stood totally mystified; as good a young poet as Jamie was, the word-thoughts were beyond anything he had written so far. She glanced through the other pages but found nothing more than beginnings to those simple poems; many lines started and several scratched out. She pulled the page from its spiral binding and put it in her coat pocket, walking out of the room as puzzled as when she had left Jimmy’s Place. She said a vacant goodnight to Christine before taking the elevator down, giving a similar farewell to Steve as she walked out into the deep freeze once more.
Powder snow had begun falling and a light wind was tightening the icy grip of the North Dakota winter’s night, yet a sense of euphoria warmed Grace from within. In her head the guitar riff was now intersecting the verse, with the sound of her boots keeping time as they crunched upon the thin layer of snow in the parking lot. Her car was generous again and, as she turned on the wipers, their backbeat took up where the boots left off, the converging parts of the song traveling with her out of the parking lot and all the way home.
At the age of 15, Graham McDonald left school to begin what he calls his “real education”, traveling widely and working in varying occupations. He continued this lifestyle till he was in his 50’s, when he began writing. Drawing on experiences he had as a gold prospector in Western Australia, he decided to write a trilogy of mystery novels about native peoples’ loss of country and how that affects culture.
Graham currently lives with his wife, Coral, in a small town on the southern coast of Western Australia. He spends his time away from writing putting the finishing touches to a house they have built and occasionally escaping in their vintage VW kombi to camp out in the wilderness regions of his country.