THE FIREKEEPER by Robert Moss

THE FIREKEEPER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Moss (Fire Along the Sky, 1992, etc.) combines American history with Mohawk culture for a sometimes forced, slow-moving account of life on the Hudson River during the French and Indian Wars. The elaborate fates of a young Irishman, an aging Mohawk woman, a lovely but impoverished Rhinelander, and a black slave converge in this florid tale of the frontier. Island Woman, a shaman who dreams of events that'll shape the course of history, introduces us to the matriarchal society of the Mohawk people. The sensual beauty of her dreams is juxtaposed with the primitive violence of the war-torn Mohawk Valley. Meanwhile, Catherine (""Cat"") Wissenberg dreams of escaping to the New World--a dream eventually realized but not without enormous cost. Both Cat and her mother arrive on America's shores only after murdering Cat's father, a man who repeatedly abused them both. Their escape is accomplished through an affair Cat has with Billy Johnson, a young student who's committed a murder of his own--on Cat's account no less. Billy, too, is haunted by dreams he attempts to ignore; but, while not exactly willing to foresee his fate, he does fulfill it by also beginning life in the New World. By the time he arrives, Cat has already been captured by natives, introduced to Island Woman, and rescued by a freed slave, a seer himself, who later shows white men how to cope with a small-pox epidemic. Billy Johnson is, of course, Sir William Johnson, a real-life settler who maintained friendly relations with the Indians, allowing the British colonies to survive attacks by the French. Here, however, historical events are represented as having been guided and shaped by visions and dreams. Says Johnson about the validity of such a soulful take: ""I suppose it all depends on what one is open to seeing."" An action-packed tribute to the roles that women, and Native American spiritual traditions, have played in American history.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor