Tuesday, April 29, 2014

House of Purple Cedar - Tim Tingle

Summary:  "The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville." Thus begins Rose Goode's story of her growing up in Indian Territory in pre-statehood Oklahoma. Skullyville, a once-thriving Choctaw community, was destroyed by land-grabbers, culminating in the arson on New Year's Eve, 1896, of New Hope Academy for Girls. Twenty Choctaw girls died, but Rose escaped. She is blessed by the presence of her grandmother Pokoni and her grandfather Amafo, both respected elders who understand the old ways. Soon after the fire, the white sheriff beats Amafo in front of the town's people, humiliating him. Instead of asking the Choctaw community to avenge the beating, her grandfather decides to follow the path of forgiveness. And so unwinds this tale of mystery, Indian-style magical realism, and deep wisdom. It's a world where backwoods spiritualism and Bible-thumping Christianity mix with bad guys; a one-legged woman shop-keeper, her oaf of a husband, herbal potions, and shape-shifting panthers rendering justice. Tim Tingle—a scholar of his nation's language, culture, and spirituality—tells Rose's story of good and evil with understanding and even laugh-out-loud Choctaw humor.  (Image and summary from goodreads.com)

My Review:  Stop.  Right now, before you read any more, go request this book.  Now.  I mean it!

Okay, book requested? Good.  Now I can review it.

The problem, however, with trying to review this book is that there just aren't the right words.  It was beautiful.  The events of the story were difficult, but Tim Tingle is a master storyteller.  His writing is stunningly perfect, the story he's created here had me glued to my book, and within the first few pages, when the first tragedy strikes, I felt as though I had lost my loved one as well.  During the night of terror--that culmination of all the last few months' events--not only did I feel the fear of Rose, our main character, but the comfort and the wonder she feels throughout it.  I felt cold.  I could feel the ice forming under my feet.  I could almost see the panther and hear her screams.

Underlying the story is the message to be a better you.  Among the prejudice and the hurt that the Choctaw suffered, their faith and their ability to rise above it, to take the higher ground and emerge victorious was so inspiring.  It was beautiful.  Juxtaposed with the image of the perfect town, Tingle takes the time to strip those facades away, painting the townsfolk as what they really are.  It was impossible to not feel empathy for them, even the smelliest, meanest, sorriest.  

I can tell that this book is one that's going to stay with me for a long time.  It's definitely one of my favorites this year.  Tingle has crafted a story that makes me want to become better.

My Rating:  Five stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  Domestic violence is a key theme in the book.  The book opens with an act of arson, resulting in the deaths of twenty girls.  There are also two murders.

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