I read this for the first time soon after I moved to Minnesota. Along with The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, it was recommended to me as a way to learn about Minnesota. I remember not being impressed with it. I thought the protagonist, a young girl, was too wise for her years and that the characters lacked any shades of grey.
This time I read it to consider whether to recommend it for classroom use (4th grade). The issues with the protagonist (Oona) did not stand out as much, but now that I know more about 4th grade readers, I don’t think there’s enough action in the story for them. Also, the characters are two-dimensional. The plot, such at is, is largely routine. The Ojibway people lead a wonderful life. The whites encroach, seem friendly or at least reasonable, at first. The Ojibway try to keep their distance and ultimately can’t. The protagonist’s mother wants some of the things that the whites have to offer and all accept the inevitability of the “change,” the need to adopt the ways of the whites. The fear persists that the “old ways” will be forgotten. In the end, Oona, now 80, tries to teach the newest generation about these old ways, and we are left with hope because these children want to learn them.
I don’t get why Louise Erdrich calls this, “One of [her] favorite books.” Do you?