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Storm Riders: A Novel
by Craig Lesley
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312263988, Paperback)Young Wade drops into Clark's life like a disobedient Skylab. Wade, a Tlingit boy, is Clark's ex-wife's cousin--hardly a close relation. But the mild-mannered Clark, an Oregonian professor trying to make his way in the East, becomes foster father to Wade by attrition; there is simply no one else to care for the boy. In Craig Lesley's humane and beautifully competent fourth novel, Storm Riders, no romance is attached to the notion of saving a Native American child. Lesley makes both his heroes ornery and unlovable--and desperately real.
Mysteries accrue around Wade. At the opening of the book, a neighbor girl drowns and he is blamed for the accident. In fact, throughout Wade's time with Clark, violent events crop up, and Lesley has the guts to leave these events unexplained. This deepens our sense of the core mystery of the story: Wade's damaged childhood remains unknowable. A string of therapists toss about theories--abuse, a learning disability, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome--and Lesley (who was foster parent to such a boy for a decade) shows how meaningless such theories are in the face of the day-to-day reality of Wade's difficulties.
As Wade makes his way back to his tribe, Lesley spins his novel outward into a meditation on the way families are made and the way children are lost. A Tlingit elder describes to Clark the mythical "land otters" who make off with Tlingit children. Clark thinks he knows what the old man is talking about, and remarks that the land otters are a good metaphor for drugs and alcohol. "The old man shook his head. 'Sometimes there are real land otters.'" And that's the grace of Lesley's writing: Wade is a metaphor for all endangered children, and at the same time he's his own distinctive story, no more and no less. --Claire Dederer
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:56 -0400)
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