Books by Bebe Faas Rice

THE PLACE AT THE EDGE OF THE EARTH by Bebe Faas Rice
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 21, 2002

Rice, the author of several mystery and suspense paperbacks, inaccurately portrays Lakota culture in this thin ghost story. A time-warp causes present-day Jenny (living at Fort Sayers with her new Army Dad) and Jonah Flying Cloud (a Lakota who died at the Fort when it was an Indian school) to appear to each other as ghosts. Through alternating first-person narratives, the reader finds out about Jenny's life with her single mom, and the adjustments she must make when her mom remarries, as well as Jonah Flying Cloud's horrible experiences at the school. There was a murder, it turns out, while Jonah was there, and with his help Jenny uncovers it for a school assignment. Rice's narrative gives each story equal weight, but it's a preposterous comparison. Why should the reader feel any sympathy for Jenny? There's no convincing explanation of why Jenny and Jonah appear to each other. Why hasn't he appeared to anyone else? What could they possibly have in common? Jenny suggests, "Obviously there was a weird sort of spirit bond between us." The characters and dialogue are lackluster, serving only to string together the predictable plot and the many historical details. Although Rice has obviously tried to present a sympathetic view of the Indian characters, and to show the school as a terrible place, she repeatedly misrepresents Lakota culture. Her characters sing death songs and slash their arms and faces at times that no Lakota would—especially not a child. All the Indian characters speak stereotypically stilted language ("I was much afraid"). Rice paraphrases a famous Luther Standing Bear quote ("die young on the battlefield") without attribution, taking it out of context, and misinterpreting it—it was not a call to die young, as presented here, but an instruction never to shirk one's duty to his tribe, even if it meant death, and so to live without fearing death. These few examples of Rice's embarrassing portrayal of a Lakota boy render her weak story unsuitable for any reader. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >