Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

CooperGhostHawkWhy I Read It: Having seen Susan Cooper‘s fantasy novels around for decades, I thought it was time I add her to my reading list.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy historical fiction on the founding of the USA, told from the Native American point of view.

Narrator: Jim Dale

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2013)

Length: 8 hours 50 minutes

Ghost Hawk encompasses decades, told through the eyes of Little Hawk. In the first third of the book, we watch as he becomes a man, fulfilling his role in his tribe’s life. His sibling, friends, and he hunt, fish, play, harvest, scare off crows, etc. We even see his first interaction with the men from across the sea.  After the first third, while the story continues to be told by Little Hawk, the focus is more upon John Wakely, who enters the story as a young boy. We watch him grow and his interactions with the various religious groups that are settling the area and the Native Americans.

Off and on, I have read books or seen movies that try to portray the earliest interactions between the European settlers and the Native Americans. Each time, I felt they had fallen short. Susan Cooper rises above that group with Ghost Hawk, capturing that time period and unpretentiously telling the story of Little Hawk and his people in a fully engaging way.

I appreciated that Cooper gave us a third of the book to get to know Little Hawk, Quick Bird, Leaping Turtle, Suncatcher, and several others; we see how they live their lives through food harvesting, child rearing, marriage interactions, etc. Little Hawk and his village first feel the foreigners’ presence indirectly to devastating effects. Later, Little Hawk’s direct interactions are simple, a little awkward, and benign. Of course, things don’t stay that way.

Through Little Hawk’s eyes, we follow John Wakely as he enters an apprenticeship to become a barrel maker. More and more Europeans come to the New World and only some have a true sense of what freedom of religion means. Tensions rise not just between the Natives and the Europeans, but also between people of John’s religious persuasion and those of more rigid believes. Cooper captures the multitude of conflict, which makes it apparent to the reader just how complicated a time period this was.

From memory pits to manitous to hunting, fishing, & planting methods, I learned a bit as I read (always a bonus in my book!). I think it would be difficult to explore this era without having a sad ending, though Cooper does it well with a bitter sweetness that leaves me wanting more of her work.

The Narration: Jim Dale provided a sometimes serious and sometimes sad voice for Little Hawk, as appropriate. Giving a variety of accents to the Europeans, it was easy to keep the cast of characters separate. However, the voices for the female characters sounded merely like soft-spoken males, lacking femininity in general.

What I Liked: Educational without being boring; Cooper made the Native Americans individuals, instead of lumped together and interchangeable; plenty of conflict, among everyone; bitter sweet ending without being trite.

What I Disliked: The narration lacked femininity for the female characters.

4 thoughts on “Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper”

Comments are always appreciated, so don't be shy!