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Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 140 x 220mm
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 0246129638
  • 9780246129635

Review Text

More historical fiction from the author of Sea Star (1983), this time about how five generations of the Demers family lived and loved in the Pacific Northwest along the Columbia River from 1792 to the present. Much information about Indian customs, the treatment of Indians by the government, the Wobblies, the I.W.W., the Tongs, W.P.A. work crews, fish planting, salmon fishing, lumbering, dam building. Ilchee, a Chinook Indian princess and shaman, with the consent of her spirit vision Raven, founds a dynasty with Scots trader Duncan McDougal. Their son, Caleb, is raised by the white Demers family when Ilchee leads the remnants of her tribe up the mountain to try to save them from extinction. Then Caleb marries Suzanna, a young woman whose journey West in a covered wagon ends with kidnap and rape by Indians. Caleb and Suzanna's son, Isaac, seduces a family servant, Ning Ho, a beautiful Chinese girl from a good family, who was drugged in Canton and sent to America to be a Tong sing-song girl and prostitute; Ning Ho is pregnant with Isaac's child and commits suicide when she learns he is to marry. Isaac goes on to make his fortune in lumbering; his son, Will, becomes an engineer and helps construct the Grand Coulee Dam. Finally, Ilchee's prophecy has come true: "Soon the river will be tamed like a dog, and the land will float, and the red fish will come no more. It will be the end of the People." Will's son, Nelson, a newspaper reporter, interviews Lisa Sing, a Chinese archeologist who heads a team of scientists urgently looking for evidence of ancient life along the river, before the Columbia's waters, which are rising, cover the past forever. And Lisa and Nelson fall in love. Devoted readers of historical fiction may overlook the overwritten, highly decorated prose and find pleasure in the interesting data and the writer's enthusiasm for her subject. But characterizations are thin, and dialogue is often reminiscent of speeches in an outdoor summer pageant: "It's a good thing when folks remember us pioneers. . . I got a lot to remember. Yessir. . ." (Kirkus Reviews)show more