I received a review copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Plume in 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: TLC Book Tours
Buy the Book • Goodreads
The Spirit Keeper is the story of Katie O’Toole, the daughter of Irish immigrants living in central Pennsylvania. Katie’s early life is bleak. Her family is abusive, and she has nothing to look forward to but a life of drudgery. When her family’s farm is attacked by Native Americans, Katie is taken captive. A holy man named Syawa takes an interest in her, and offers Katie a chance to return with him to his village. He claims that he has seen her in a vision, and that she will give a great gift to his people. Katie realizes that there is nothing left for her in Pennsylvania, and decides to accept his offer. While traveling with Syawa and his companion Hector, Katie must adapt to a new way of life. When tragedy strikes, Katie’s very resolve is challenged as she finds herself flung headlong into an unfamiliar world.
While it might not seem like it from my synopsis, The Spirit Keeper is predominately a love story. I won’t go into too many details to avoid giving away plot spoilers, but I will say that it’s absolutely adorable, and that’s coming from someone who is hypercritical of literary romances (I still maintain that Gale and Peeta are pretty much the same person, if that says anything).
As she travels with Syawa and Hector, Katie must adapt to a new culture. Katie’s spent her entire life thinking of the Native Americans as savages, and so she has to learn their customs, beliefs, folklore, and even basic survival skills. Meanwhile, Hector sees Katie as uncivilized, complaining about the fact that she doesn’t bathe or help prepare meals. There’s a major communication gap, and it’s a two way street. Both sides have to learn how to understand and live with each other. I was also impressed with the fact that Ms. Laugheed takes into consideration the fact that different Native American groups have different cultures, even though some customs are featured throughout almost every group. This becomes particularly evident the further away Katie travels.
Katie is an adaptive and spunky heroine. When someone threatens people she cares about, she becomes a total badass and uses her brain to get out of sticky situations. Her attitude on being captured was basically “Fuck it, why not?,” which is something I can appreciate. She realizes that her former life holds nothing for her but abuse, an eventual loveless marriage, and a houseful of kids, but rather than just accepting it, she actively changes her fate. Katie is open minded, and doesn’t assume that Syawa and Hector are bad people even though their ways are very different. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t experience fear or self-doubt; she feels as if she’s a fraud and that by going with them, she’s pretending to be someone she’s not.
The Spirit Keeper ends leaving plenty of room for a sequel, and I hope that Ms. Laugheed decides to continue Katie’s story. I was swept away from the very first page, and I’m already itching for more.
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