A debut novel about a supernaturally gifted young Cherokee woman who goes on a journey, by foot, from Oklahoma to Texas after the destruction of her home.
As the story opens, 20-year-old Chewahnih Walkingstick gazes down upon her ransacked village. It’s just been burned to the ground by raiders who brutally slaughtered or kidnapped her fellow clan members; she only escaped the devastation because she was off collecting special plants for her mother. Even her beloved mustang pony, Running Moon, has disappeared. Chewahnih, a “sensitive” who’s able to spiritually connect with animals, tries to make it to Texas before winter sets in with her three constant animal companions—Turtle, her friend; Mother Raven, her guide; and Father Wolf, her protector. Although the young woman is frightened and desperate, she’s also feisty and courageous. Along the way, she meets a stranger named Isaac Nicholson. The handsome, cantankerous man is also a Cherokee and recently retired from the Army. He was orphaned young and became a loner by nature; he’s skeptical about Native American tradition and ritual after spending most of his life in the white man’s world. Now, he’s “tired of riding, tired of fighting, and just plain tired.” This engaging, mystical novel is part adventure story, part love story, but most of all, it’s a tribute to the strength of Cherokee character and culture. The author, whose great-grandparents were Cherokee, delivers a tale that’s rich in imagery and character development. She handles the two main characters’ fortuitous meeting in a humorous and tender way, moving back and forth between Chewahnih’s and Isaac’s separate quests until they encounter each other on the trail to the Red River. (Isaac serendipitously acquires Running Moon, who hears Chewahnih singing and becomes frantic to reach her.) It also offers impressive details on how to survive in the wild—although it probably helps to have a large wolf who can supply you with rabbits. An abundance of warmly portrayed secondary characters gives the story even greater breadth.
A charming, deftly crafted narrative propelled by strong characters.