THE LYNCHING OF LOUIE SAM by Elizabeth Stewart


Age Range: 11 - 15
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The title tells readers most of what they need to know.

In 1884, in Washington territory, very close to the Canadian border, a white man of questionable character was found murdered. A 14-year-old Native American boy named Louie Sam was framed for the crime, tracked down by a group of over 100 vigilantes and hanged—by happenstance, on the Canadian side of the line. Louie Sam's death remains the only lynching on Canadian soil. Stewart takes all the history she can find and works to craft a novel from it, but she's only partially successful. Her narrative character, a 15-year-old white boy named George Gillies, is a real-life person known to have witnessed Louie Sam's death. Her writing is clean and fluid and her attention to historical detail admirable. However, this story, constrained by history, does not follow a narrative arc, and Louie Sam cannot emerge as a character, in part because the author hesitates to express the feelings of the Native Americans. George seems to accept automatically the party line that Louie Sam must be a criminal. His very gradual conversion to Louie Sam's probable innocence isn't emotionally moving and has no effect on the story, which, because it follows historical truth, ends without any satisfying resolution.

No doubt it's historically accurate, and it is certainly honestly told; however, it doesn't quite succeed as fiction. (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55451-439-7
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Annick Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2012


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