Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Windigo Island'

Within all of us is darkness and light; which one we let into our lives determines what type of human being we are, known only to ourselves. Everything influences our choice: Family, friends, experiences, school, jobs. But in order to choose wisely, we have to practice patience.

Patience is one of the major themes of William Kent Krueger's 'Windigo Island', the newest novel in his popular 'Cork O'Connor' series.  All of the O'Connor books carry the usual themes of family, loss, love and regret, but this new one goes much deeper and the theme is definitely darker.

I cannot say enough about this book, this book that begged for my patience. While I could have easily tried to finish it in one day, I read a bit at a time, wrapping myself in the darkness and growing angrier and angrier as I finished each chapter.

Anger did not come to me because of sloppy writing or thin characterizations; Krueger is a superb writer, a master at building suspense and investigating his characters' motives.  It was the other theme that pissed me off, and it will do that to you, as well.

Exploitation of teenage girls.  Doesn't the very thought of that make you angry?  It is darkness, peopled by characters who thrive in that realm.  Men who don't care about anything but themselves and the money they can make. Men who feel powerful without earning it in an honest, sincere way.  Men who lure young girls into their world with empty promises and then, abuse.  Then the girls are sold. Prostituted.  And they find themselves in a world of hurt and terror with no chance at escape.

When the body of a teenage Ojibwe girl washes up on the shore of an island in Lake Superior, the residents of the nearby Bad Bluff reservation whisper that it was the work of a deadly mythical beast, the Windigo, or a vengeful spirit called Michi Peshu.  The tales told don't explain how the girl and her friend, Mariah Arceneaux, disappeared a year ago.

At the request of Mariah's family, Cork O'Connor, a former sheriff turned private investigator, takes on the case.  Although most of the residents won't talk to him, he puts together enough information that leads him to Duluth, a modern-day center for sex trafficking of vulnerable young women, many of whom are young Native Americans.

As the danger deepens, Cork holds tight to his higher purpose, his vow to find Mariah. With the help of his daughter, Jenny, and some good friends (including the wise man, Henry), he prepares to walk into the darkness and find the person who is responsible for the endless tragedies.

Author William Kent Krueger
Krueger has a gift for portraying the O'Connor's as a close-knit family as he explores their every inner concern and love for each other.  He brings a great deal of sensitivity to this story (as he did with his Edgar Award-winning novel, 'Ordinary Grace'), yet doesn't skimp on the fact that one of them could be seduced by the darkness.  

Krueger's research runs deep, and although we are a somewhat jaded society, we are still stunned by what he's uncovered.

He respects Native American traditions and has embraced their values, and he uses his knowledge and empathy to great advantage.  He brings us into their world and we come out better people.  

I am grateful for that wonderful bit of light.

'Windigo Island', published by Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 978-1-4767-4923-5  

1 comment:

Don Lentz said...

Awesome. I'm going to see if the library has it today. Not sure how new or old this book is. But sounds like something I'd love to read...