Monday, February 3, 2014

'Under a Blackberry Moon' by Serena B. Miller

Under a Blackberry Moon: A Novel
Just a few days after she gives birth alone in the Northwoods, a recently widowed young Ojibwe woman stumbles into a nearby lumber camp in search of refuge and sustenance. Come summer, the camp owner sends Skypilot, his most trusted friend, to accompany Moon Song and her baby on the long and treacherous journey back to her people. But when tragedy strikes off the shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula wilderness, Moon Song and Skypilot must depend on each other for survival. With every step they take into the forbidding woods, they are drawn closer together, until the tough questions must be asked. Will she leave her culture to enter his? Will he leave his world to enter hers? Or will they walk away from a love that seems too complicated to last?

With evocative descriptions of a breathtaking landscape, Under a Blackberry Moon will sweep readers into a wild realm where beauty masks danger and only the truly courageous survive, even as the sweet love story along the way tightly grips their hearts

As soon as I started, I realised this is actually a sequel and I hadn't read the first in the series. It didn't matter. The beautiful cover first drew my attention to this novel. I love to think that the main character, Moon Song, looked just like this. I think the story achieves everything a historical novel should.

It did take me a little while to warm up to either of the main characters. I found Skypilot a bit quick to cast judgments at first. Just before the explosion, while he'd been chatting with Isabella's husband, Hatchette's revelations disgusted him. Skypilot couldn't even imagine how he and that man could be from the same species. Yes, the guy was seriously misguided, but hey, isn't that still a bit harsh coming from a preacher?

I was intrigued by Moon Song's parts of the story. Such a lot of research had been done into the mindset of her people. This was fantastic, but made it a bit hard to relate to her point of view at first. Who knew what the girl would come out with next? (Swimming around in the floating aftermath of the explosion without being squeamish, for example. The idea makes me shudder.)She was so aloof and almost gruff for so much of the story, but I got used to her ways and found her growing on me.

What made me object to both of them was the casual way they behaved when Isabella lost her baby. Instead of thinking how traumatic this would be for a young mother, they both seemed to consider her a nuisance, distracting them from the more serious question of survival. Neither of them made a single move to try to comfort her at the outset. I'm glad to say this changed as the story went on, and they acted with more compassion.

The sad, shameful history of the white settlers' dealings with the native American Indians has so many parallels with the way Australian settlers treated our native Aboriginals. I never realised it was quite so similar. It's disturbing and amazing that this is the history of both countries. The forced boarding schools reminds me of my country's Stolen Generation shame. Also, it seems that in both cases, the proud native people were reduced to ending up dependent on white folk's handouts.

The second part of the book was my favourite. Who can resist a good love story when the guy is challenged to prove his love to the girl? I admired the way Skypilot went about it. There was a lovely surprise twist or two. I'm so glad Isabella's story ended happily too, as she was one of my favourite characters. On the whole, I think Serena B. Miller did a wonderful job and couldn't have asked for a better ending than this epilogue.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Revell in return for an honest review.

3.5 stars

Under a Blackberry Moon: A Novel available from Amazon

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