According to the Algonquians, the three-month test each young man takes to prepare for manhood is sacred. The time spent in solitude in a forest in the middle of winter with only the clothing on your person and a few tools (one being a tomahawk) is not just to build survival skills. It is also to provide spiritual maturation: waiting for one’s Manitou (guide and conscience) to appear. This test can be extremely challenging, scary even. Eleven-year-old Little Hawk understood this, but he had no idea that there would be more grueling experiences forthcoming and that the concept of Manitou would take on greater meaning --- one that he would least expect.
"Narrated by Little Hawk, GHOST HAWK is more than a story about the lives of two individuals during a horrific time in U.S. history. It is about following one’s convictions to stand up for truth and the risks involved in making those decisions."
In GHOST HAWK, Little Hawk takes readers back to when his tomahawk was made from a bitter hickory tree in the marshland, followed by his perilous three-month quest. He is distressed when he returns to his village only to find it deserted except for his grandmother, who tells him that all have died because of the white man’s plague. Fortunately, they learn of other survivors and join them to build a new village and find food. While fishing the following spring, Little Hawk meets a white boy around his age, named John Wakeley. Despite language barriers, they become fast friends.
Because he is quick on his feet, Little Hawk is assigned as a runner --- one who sends information to other villages. On route one day, he comes across two white men caught under a felled tree and John calling for help. Little Hawk comes to the aid of the trapped men. As he raises his axe to break the branches apart, a white man shoots and kills Little Hawk, thinking that he was attacking the men. John, who is absolutely horrified, makes every attempt to prove Hawk’s innocence, but to no avail; the white men who witnessed his death only see Hawk as a savage and a heathen and tell John that the incident would be best left forgotten. But he cannot forget.
Leaving an indelible mark in John’s memory, he fumes at how stubborn the Christian leaders are toward the truth. They, in turn, are infuriated with John’s opinions. One of the enraged leaders is his stepfather, who witnessed Hawk’s death. As a result, his stepfather makes a convenient arrangement for John to live in another village, where he will be apprenticed as a cooper. Little does he know what lies ahead, as one day the mistress of his new home asks John to collect sassafras root in the marshland. Obediently venturing out alone, John senses that someone is standing nearby, and looking around, he sees Little Hawk by the hickory tree where his tomahawk was fashioned. Little Hawk’s spirit is not free to leave the earth because of his violent death. Appearing only at dawn and dusk, he ends up encouraging John to work hard to become a good cooper and to uphold the truth.
Fast forwarding, John becomes a journeyman, marries and starts a family, and while Hawk awaits his spirit’s freedom, he sees all the changes, sadness and carnage that takes place over the years between the white man and his people. John continues to visit Hawk, who has become his Manitou, and asks him to teach the language of his people to him so that he can communicate with them. Of course, John’s ability to communicate with the natives once again infuriates the religious leaders. Because of his convictions, John knows that his place is to support Roger Williams, who works with the natives to promote peace. But not all is peaceful. There are rumors of war near where John and his family live. They have no choice but to find shelter. Will they find a place of refuge before war commences? And will Little Hawk’s spirit ever be set free?
Narrated by Little Hawk, GHOST HAWK is more than a story about the lives of two individuals during a horrific time in U.S. history. It is about following one’s convictions to stand up for truth and the risks involved in making those decisions. As Hawk told John during one of their conversations, “Change is made by the voice of one person at a time.” At the back of the book, readers will find a detailed timeline of Native Americans and a chilling author’s note. Cooper has eloquently captured the human spirit and its connection with the earth in this timeless and incredible work of historical fiction.
Reviewed by Anita Lock on July 24, 2013
- Publication Date: August 27, 2013
- Genres: Historical Fiction
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
- ISBN-10: 1442481412
- ISBN-13: 9781442481411