Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SEARCH THE WILD SHORE by Jean Montgomery Kirkus Star



Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1974
Publisher: Morrow

Like the well-remembered Wrath of Coyote (1968) and Passage to Drake's Bay (1972), the odyssey of Zakhar Petrov brings together European adventurers and California Indians in a way that captures both the character of the Indians' culture and variously sympathetic and exploitative European reactions to the same. Young and something of a bumbler, Zakhar sets sail for the New World in order to track down his wandering father and eventually reaches the Russian settlement at Fort Ross, where relations with the indigenous Indians are precarious and (this is 1818) the Spanish provinces to the South are threatening war. Zakhar's journey, loosely based on historical incident, gets off to an episodic start when he survives a shipwreck by luckily failing to report for his assigned watch, makes an enemy of a fellow Russian when he takes an otter's side during a hunt and then inadvertently offends an important local chief at Fort Ross. However, the pace really picks up when Zakhar and an Aleut hunter Tyeen are betrayed by a Yankee ship captain (known as ""dam-boston""), are set to forced labor by their Spanish conquerors, and escape on foot -- living off the land by dint of Tyeen's excellent woodsmanship. Tyeen's strategies for survival are continually surprising, and they ensure Zakhar's physical survival while at the same time deflating his considerable ego (""How you make fire, Gospodin Petrov?"" asks Tyeen while working his handmade firedrill). Less mature readers may find the early chapters slow going, but Montgomery's language is consistently and enjoyably expressive, and the tale gathers momentum all the way. Superior.