A searching portrayal of a disabled child's intellect and inner life as she copes with the old ways on a Scottish island. Shona McLeod lurches when she walks, arms akimbo, silent save for gutteral grunts. Like the other islanders, her family ekes out a meager living tending sheep. Unable to help them, Shona explores the island and--because she knows the lay of the land--becomes an able ally to the new laird's son, Carl. His father, an American, bought the island as a tax break; while his family has trouble adjusting, Carl embraces his new surroundings. Through his father's high-tech computer, he finds the means to unlock Shona's silence: one key at a time, she learns to express thoughts and feelings that she has stored for years. Though her disability is never identified, readers will empathize keenly with Shona's limitations and the frustrations borne of hundreds of misunderstandings; her chance for communication is achingly well realized. The portraits of Carl's family as stereo-typically ugly Americans are much less successful, while one plot detail seems unlikely: Can eagle chicks be sold into falconry? Nevertheless, the message is tellingly conveyed.