CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Joan Clark.
Markham, ON: Viking Kestrel, 1985.
171pp., paper, $14.95.
ISBN 0-670-80015-5. Distributed by Penguin Canada. CIP.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14

Reviewed by Joan Weller.

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

The latest novel by the author of The Hand of Robin Squires (Irwin, 1981) concerns itself with a universal theme in a realistic Canadian setting touched by Indian lore and mysticism. The Rockies countryside provides an authentic backdrop for Stephen's struggle with his shyness and lack of aggression. During a holiday at his cousin Louie's log home, he meets two neighbouring bullies, Willard and Sludge. The cousins' friendship strengthened by their affinity with nature helps fortify them against their mutual fears and enemies. The cosy, peaceful atmosphere of family life offered by Louie's artisan parents contrasts with their tormentors' homes and cruel actions. The book's warm, yet foreboding atmosphere, fast-moving action, natural dialogue, and sustained mood of suspense carry the reader along to the shocking conclusion. Prior to the story's climax the boys find themselves totally victimized.

"Those jerks had thrown mud at them, messed up their towels, bugged them with their motorbikes, cut the raft wires, put a hole in Mad's boat, smashed Louie's tree-lab, dumped the barrel back into the lake and shot at them."

The answer to this war is found in the story's added dimension of Indian lore and animism, focused in the figure of Angus, a mysterious Indian mask carver. Only through a strange, ritualistic dance wearing the Wild Man of the Woods's evil mask, does Stephen conquer his nightmares, expurgate his inner turmoil, and overcome his enemies. Some readers may have difficulty understanding and accepting the interwoven mystical elements of the plot and resolution of the conflict. A series of hypothetical questions concerning man's potential for evil posed at the end of the story seem a contrived means by which the author brings about Stephen's final rites of passage. Acceptance or rejection of the teenagers' too hasty, almost unnatural reconciliation and the mystical solution to evil is left for readers to accept, or reject.

Joan Weller, Ottawa P.L., Ottawa, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works