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Other Book Reviews:

Palladio
- Jonathon Dee

The White
- Deborah Larsen
Into the Buzzsaw
- Kristina Borjesson

Atonement
- Ian McEwan

The Black Veil
- Rick Moody

Tempting Faith DiNapoli
- Lisa Gabriele

Godspeed
- Lynn Breedlove

Africa Speaks
- Mark Goldblatt

The Shape of a Pocket
- John Berger

Media Unlimited
- Todd Gitlin

Carter Beats the Devil
- Glen David Gold

Somebody's Gotta Tell It!
-
Jack Newfield
Violence, Nudity, Adult Content
- Vince Passaro

Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace
- Gore Vidal
The War Against Cliche
- Martin Amis
Look at Me
- Jennifer Egan

Them: Adventures With Extremists
- Jon Ronson

Tishomingo Blues
- Elmore Leonard

Letters to a Young Contrarian - Christopher Hitchens
With Love and Squalor -
Kip Kotzen and Thomas Beller
Shanghai Baby -
Wei Hui
Shop Talk -
Philip Roth

Halls of Fame -
John D'Agata
This is Not a Novel -
David Markson
My Name is Red -
Orhan Pamuk
The Corrections -
Jonathan Franzen
Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America -
Barbara Ehrenreich
Spreading Misandry
P. Nathanson and K. Young

The White
Deborah Larsen
(Knopf, 2002)

"In 1758 a woman around the age of sixteen named Mary Jemison - or as some now think, Mary Jamison -- was actually taken by a Shawnee raiding party in south-central Pennsylvania; she was forced from her home, which lay close to what would later be known as the town of Gettysburg. In 1823, in New York State, the aged Mary sat for three days with a physician and local historian, James Seaver, and told him the story that he wrote down and later published."

Deborah Larsen's novel gives a fictional account of the life of this historical figure. Mary Jemison and her Irish immigrant family are kidnapped and taken from their home; Mary witnesses the scalping of her parents and siblings and is told that she will be given to a Seneca family to replace a son they lost in battle. After a period of shock during which Mary stops speaking, she gradually becomes acclimated to life as a Seneca, learning their language and customs, and is given the name Two-Falling-Voices. She marries a warrior and has several children, and faced with the option to return to white society, she repeatedly decides not to.

The tale is told in a series of abbreviated accounts, organized into petite but satisfying chapters often only two pages long. The novel's terse, sleepy cadence helps to create a voice that approximates the subtle oddities of a work of translation, recalling the writing of Native American authors like Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich; each word is purposeful, and each sentence is weighty. But while the writing feels for the most part reserved, there are moments when it becomes distractingly over-poetic. Exhibit A: "she had been splitting wood, cutting the thick white oak with ease, cleaving filamented piece from piece for the sake of warmth-filled evenings and for cooking. She imagined the flames tentative at first and then thrusting up, spending themselves in the foreign air for the comfort of her family."

But forgiving an occasional sentence that sounds like a coffeehouse poetry evening, this is a highly readable work: a fascinating story that explores important and unfortunate moments in American history.


-- Christine Leahy



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