Chippewa Caw Caw by Elizabeth   Whitmer

Chippewa Caw Caw

Ojibwe Mazitaagozi
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A crow escapes the famous sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and lyrical adventure follows.

In 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald left port in Wisconsin, carrying pellets of iron ore in its 730-foot-long hull. It sailed across Lake Superior, headed for Michigan under the supervision of Capt. Ernest M. McSorley, aka the “Bad Weather Captain.” Fatefully, a storm called the Witch of November rose from the Gulf of Mexico. Tearing across the country, it eventually hit the Great Lakes, slamming the Edmund Fitzgerald with rogue waves that knocked out its radar and breached its hull. While trying to reach the safety of nearby Whitefish Point (with radio help from fellow ship the Anderson), the “Mighty Fitz” sank with no human survivors. In this telling, however, Caw Caw the crow escaped his cage in the cabin and flew to Miner’s Beach, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There, having also rescued a small cat from the ship’s deck, his adventures begin. He eventually reaches Traverse Bay, where he meets more interesting animals and even a women’s hockey team. Sadly, everything reminds Caw Caw of the Native American man who once placed the gifts of an arrowhead and a teddy bear in his cage. Is there any hope of reuniting with this old friend? Author Whitmer (Aloha Rainbow, 2006) answers the question with engaging lyricism. Describing the Witch of November, she writes: “Off portside, she lay sideways as if riding a jet wind broom; her head oddly crowned by dim moonlight.” Alongside photos and diagrams of the Edmund Fitzgerald, these glimpses of beauty amid chaos characterize the novel’s first half. In the second half, when Caw Caw meets the hockey team, humor lightens the tone: “[S]hopping was their first sport,” and they “were masters of ransacking shop after shop, their scoring-system seemed to rack up points for collecting the best sale items.” Unfortunately, much of Whitmer’s prose suffers from an overuse of commas—e.g., “The captain leaned, on the top railing, and called down”—often making for stilted reading. But her knack for poetic imagery more than compensates.

A treat for both history and nature lovers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1475951356
Page count: 198pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2013


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