This novel by Susan Cooper covers a part of American history of which I knew little. At its centre is the story of two boys: one is a Native American and another the son of settlers from Europe. Their lives cross as the years go by and through their eyes we see how the relationship between the settlers and the Native Americans changes.
The heart of the book centres on living in peace with people who are different. What Susan Cooper draws out is the difference of opinion between settlers; some see the ‘Indians’ as a threat to their way of life, while others see the need to live and trade in harmony. What is significant is the idea that some of the least tolerant settlers left Europe to escape religious bigotry and in the search of freedom, only to establish their own form of bigotry in the new world.
Roger Williams, a real figure from history, features in this story. He is a role model much admired by John Wakely, son of a settler yet without his father from the age of ten. Little Hawk is the boy of similar age from the tribe befriended by the first settlers. Their fates are entwined. The event that kills John Wakely’s father has huge implications for both boys.
There is a genuine shock a third of the way through this novel.
I ended the book wanting to learn more about Roger Williams, wanting to know more about the need for religious groups to generate fear to protect themselves and wanting to know how Native Americans were forced from the East Coast of what became the USA.
‘Ghost Hawk’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?