A culturally aware but overly complex mix of environmental intrigue, indigenous politics and family drama.
Doctor Jake Lalonde, a brilliant young archaeologist and leading expert on the indigenous culture of the Canadian Pacific Coast, returns to his childhood home on British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands to finish his most important research project. The island chain is the home of the Haida, a centuries-old tribe. Jake is, it turns out, half Haida. (The novel’s many sections of Haida dialect, though helping to lend an air of cultural authenticity, are frequently distracting.) Accompanying Jake is his long-time girlfriend Angeline, a junior archaeologist looking for a big breakthrough in her own career. The couple arrive on the Canadian coast at a time when a confusing mÃ©lange of conflicting political, financial and cultural interests have disrupted the Haida settlement. Wealthy logging companies, on which many Haida depend for employment, have made efforts to begin cutting on protected land, a move that threatens to decimate acres of forest sacred to the tribe. In addition, many dead animals–slaughtered in unnatural fashion–have begun popping up around the area, and some of the natives have begun to blame the Wasgo, a fearful sea beast of Haida lore. As time passes–and as Jake and Angeline are further implicated in the tribe’s political and supernatural problems–it becomes increasingly obvious that Jake’s reasons for returning to his Haida homeland are more personal than professional. During his stay on the islands, he hopes to uncover the identity of the parents who abandoned him in his infancy. As his stay grows longer, his search becomes an unhealthy obsession that threatens both his romantic and professional lives.
The author’s willingness to tackle such a complex array of topics is admirable, but her many interests eventually become dizzying, then tedious.