Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Much is written centered on the friendships of women, but rarely does a book so perfectly cover the friendship of men. I can think of only one other fictional friendship which moved me as much as this did—the friendship of Gus and Call from Lonesome Dove.
There is nothing to dislike about this historical fantasy. It takes place in 17th-century Massachusetts and focuses on two boys, Little Hawk, a Native American, and John Wakeley, the son of an English settler. Their friendship and subsequent shared tragedy dictates the path the story follows. The pacing is perfect and the characters feel so real it is difficult to believe the story is anything but true.
The early part of the book covers the three months of solitude Little Hawk must endure on his way to becoming a man. During this time the reader gets a sense of the importance of family and the native people’s reverence for nature. The rest is devoted to the man John Wakeley becomes and the improbability of his friendship with Little Hawk.
Cooper does such an incredible job of covering all the attitudes of the time ranging from being wary of each other, to falsely believing the idea they could co-exist, to an extreme distrust and even hatred of one another. Ironically the settlers who came here to escape repression ultimately committed acts of repression equal to, or worse than, those they sought freedom from.
This read will be enjoyed by both male and female readers. Although its target audience is 10 to 14 year olds, this adult and her mother both loved it. In a classroom setting it would make a great conversation starter for this period of American history. The timeline and author notes at the end of the book are helpful and add to the overall reading experience.
I previously had not read anything by Susan Cooper, my loss to be sure. Nothing I can say about her storytelling ability can truly evoke the feelings she brings to the telling of this particular story. It is touching and thought provoking, staying with you long after you’ve read the last page.
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