WEASEL by Cynthia DeFelice


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In a story set 150 years ago, Nathan, 11, survives an encounter with a maniacal killer and learns a valuable lesson about violence and revenge. Nathan's father steps into a bear trap set by Weasel, a former Indian fighter, noted for his brutality, who has stayed near the banks of the Ohio to prey on settlers after the Shawnee have moved on. With the help of Ezra--a strange, tongueless hermit--Nathan and his younger sister care for Pa. Then Weasel not only plunders their farm but seizes Nathan and ties him up, drunkenly boasting that he had cut out Ezra's tongue and murdered his pregnant Shawnee wife. Nathan escapes, nursing a savage need for revenge, but his father counsels a wiser course: ""If I forget all the good things to think about Weasel, then I'm letting him do something worse to me than what he's done already."" In time, Nathan understands that even Ezra has put aside revenge (but not rage), not from weakness of character but from strength. A convenient ending--despite his father's prohibition, Nathan at last nerves himself to sneak up on Weasel's cabin only to find him a moldering corpse--mars an otherwise well-told story. The audience for it is problematic, however, since (as in the author's The Strange Night Writing of Jessamine Colter, 1988) the moral dilemma here is posed abstractly, and adults are drawn more vividly than the children.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0380713586
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Macmillan