- Knox Robinson Publishing puts out some fantastic titles and this one looked fascinating to me.
Summary from GoodReads:
Belfast, 1895. Haunted by her mother’s death, Máire McNair is lured by the selkie myth to the promise of the Alaskan wilds to fulfil her dream of finding acceptance.
Cunning and determination get her there in the guise of teaching at the Tlingit Indian mission. But Alaska proves more complex and difficult than she imagined, and the hope that this new place would transform her is elusive as ever.
The censorious Mrs. Paxson, the wife of the trading post manager, constantly finds fault with Máire’s efforts to instruct the native children. She has her own plans and Máire is in the way. Will Máire be able to forge her own way and make a success of her teaching? And what should she do about the handsome yet moody Lieutenant Green who is aggressively courting her?
Natsilane is the Tlingit erstwhile mission protégé. Troubled and disaffected, he finds himself battling Máire’s naive views and prejudices as he seeks to regain his own cultural identity by resuming a traditional lifestyle that draws from the Tlingit myth. But he cannot escape his past with the mission, nor can he or Máire escape the mutual attraction they feel. In a world that permits no rule breakers, will the power of myths trump all?
It’s when I read books about the harsh clash between missionaries and those they seek to convert that I realize just how judgmental, harsh, and brutal colonialism is. Selkie Dreams by Kristin Gleeson is one of those kind of books.
Máire, an innocent young woman of Ireland, lives with her father, their cook, and two maids. Her mother is long gone, reportedly a selkie (seal-woman) who had been trapped on land for seven years and went back to the sea shortly after Máire’s death. In order to escape an event that would definitely make Máire’s future a bleak one, she signs up to teach children in faraway Alaska.
What made this book so interesting to me is how familiar and strange the Tlingit people were. They had oral story traditions that were not all that different from those I’ve studied of Irish origin, and I think that is what made this book work so well. In addition, Kristin Gleeson spent time working in a national archives library documenting artifacts and information about the Tlingits and assisted the Tlingits in recovering “their land and their past” in Alaska. This information was all taken from Ms. Gleeson’s biography on her website, which I highly encourage you to visit as there is more information there on her other writings.
Máire was a character I was hugely sympathetic too. The connection and relationships she formed with the Tlingits, coupled with the beautifully narrated description of their traditions and way of living, made for a story that was rich in both subject matter as well as language. My only complaint? An ending that had me screaming with frustration. Will there be more, Ms. Gleeson? Because I need to know!
Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!