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The White by Deborah Larsen

The White

by Deborah Larsen

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This is a GREAT book! Very lyrical and poetic. Highly recommended. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
I read of Mary Jemeson first as a child in Lois Lenski's book, Indian Captive, a book I read many times. So I was interested in reading a different telling. And Deborah Larsen's telling was very different.

Larsen's tale has much more to do with Mary's inner journey than her outer one. We see Mary change and come to grips with her life --and the words are beautiful, almost poetic - but in the end we still don't have the answer to that nagging question -- why?

Mary seems to be simply captured by inertia. She is, and that in the end leaves us wanting - its like taking a bite of a rich pastry, getting a taste, but when you look for more - there's only air. ( )
  sdunford | Nov 14, 2014 |
In 1758 Pennsylvania, sixteen year old Mary Jemison is captured by a band of Shawnee Indians. At first, she rejects her captors and desperately plots methods of escape, but as time passes, she adjust more and more to the Native American way of life, even marrying within the tribe.

The story isn't a new one - I can think of a good handful of other books off the top of my head with this exact plotline. But, many of those books have also been very good, which I why I wasn't all that hesitant about reading another.
Also, I was particularly familiar with Mary Jemison's story because of another fictional book about her, "Indian Captive," by Lois Lenski. It was one of the books of my childhood and won the 1942 Newberry Award.

The problem with "The White," however, is not the storyline, but the author's writing, and her manner of recounting this true tale. I got through the book quickly, because of the sparse writing style, but there was nothing that compelled me to continue or interested me.

There was not a lot of focus on anything in the book except for the main character, Mary. The ways and customs of the Shawnee are neglectfully skipped over, along with any sense of culture. The other characters of the book, such as Mary's father, her husband, or her children, are also given this brusque, edited-out treatment. We never come to learn anything about them, save for their strict relationship to Mary.

For going to so much trouble to erase everything from the story except Mary herself, the author surely has created a bland main character. Mary is a shell-like, cardboard person whose thoughts, emotions, and motives are unclear to the reader. She never shares very much with us, and sometimes I had trouble guessing what exactly she was thinking. For example, she expresses her unwillingness to marry a certain man (she appears to be attracted to someone else), but very shortly afterward, agrees to marrying him and offers up no complaints ever again. Why? Further on in the book, she expresses a sudden, strong desire to own land. Why? The author never gives us any insight.
And to make matters worse, Mary is also an intolerably dull, listless character. I never felt sympathy or anything else for her. She was simply boring.

Not a book that I would recommend. ( )
1 vote joririchardson | Oct 31, 2011 |
I didn't plan this, but this book fit well with The Unredeemed Captive which I read last year. This is a fictionalized account of another white woman who was captured by Indians and chose to stay with them, and who told her story late in life to a historian.

It's kind of a dull book, though. Not a whole lot happens except gathering and preparing food, with an occasional battle. Our heroine Mary of the Senecas is kind of a Mary Sue: red hair and blue eyes (of course). She's patient and kind, forgives her hateful father and her Indian captives, and teaches her children about the loving Great Spirit. She becomes a wise woman and shares her wisdom with a historian, humbling him with her forgiving spirit. Zzzzzzz. ( )
  piemouth | May 28, 2010 |
Though based on the actual captivity narrative of a Mary Jamison in the 18th century, Larsen has her own Mary tell a tale. A beautiful, lyrical tale. ( )
  kalafel | Mar 18, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375712895, Paperback)

In 1758, when Mary Jemison is about sixteen, a Shawnee raiding party captures her Irish family near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Mary is the only one not killed and scalped. She is instead given to two Seneca sisters to replace their brother who was killed by whites. Emerging slowly from shock, Mary--now named Two-Falling-Voices--begins to make her home in Seneca culture and the wild landscape. She goes on to marry a Delaware, then a Seneca, and, though she contemplates it several times, never rejoins white society. Larsen alludes beautifully to the way Mary apprehends the brutality of both the white colonists and the native tribes; and how, open-eyed and independent, she thrives as a genuine American.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:19 -0400)

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