________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 4 . . . . October 17, 1997

cover Bone Dance.

Martha Brooks.
Toronto: Groundwood, 1997.
179pp., paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-88899-296-3.

Subject Headings:
Parents-Death-Juvenile fiction.
Dreams-Juvenile fiction.
Spirits-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Cheryl Archer.

**** /4


Under the blue starry night he sat on Earl's steps and waited for her. There were ancient whisperings in the cosmos. The full moon shone in a beautiful way on the abandoned LaFreniere cabin, on its soft silvery wood. This is what I've learned about waiting, he thought. If you wait with all of your senses, you don't wait empty.

      Then light from Earl's kitchen flooded in behind him. She came out, wrapped in a long quilt, her hair gleaming down her back like the sheen of an animal diving under water.

      They walked up together. Medicine Bluff irradiated a smoky haze. Halfway up, poplar leaves clicked, old woman's tongues. Near the crest of the hill, she turned. Cradled in her arms, glowing with moon, were her father's ashes.

      She opened the box and set it down on the sage-smelling land. In the space of four heartbeats, her left hand came away, pale with the powder of her father's bones. She made a fist, held it high, danced in a circle, threw back her head, and howled like a wolf.

      The enchanting and spiritual journey of two 18-year-olds who must confront their ghosts of memory and mysterious visions when spirits draw them to five miles of prairie along Fatback Lake in Manitoba's Lacs des Placottes Valley. This land has been in the LaFreniere family for generations, since the very first LaFreniere, a Métis trapper and buffalo hunter, settled there. However, Lonny LaFreniere does not want his father to pass the land on to him. Every since Lonny, at the age of eleven, dug up skeletons from Medicine Bluff, the Indian burial mound on the property, he's been haunted by dreams and guilt. Two nights after he uncovered those bones, his mother died. Even though Lonny knows a weak heart killed her, deep down he fears that unearthing the bones caused her death. When Lonny's father decides to sell the land, Lonny is re-visited by dreams of his mother whispering to him, "Let the spirits dance. The land will wake up and tell you things." He is also shocked to discover the property has been willed to Alexandra Sinclair, a city girl.

      Alexandra is just as surprised when she receives this gift of land - a legacy from her recently deceased father, a white man she's never met except through the occasional letter. At first she hates the gift and doesn't want it; but when Alex has dreams and waking visions of her dead Cree grandfather and another spirit, Old Raven Man, calling to her to be brave and face the mystery, she visits her property. She not only finds a lake, a cabin and land, but also Lonny who just might be the special person her Grandfather once told her to watch for - the person with buffalo medicine. Together, as they share their stories and face their pasts, Lonny and Alex begin to understand themselves, as well as each other.

      A densely-layered, complicated plot, with the story narrated in third-person, past tense, and told alternately by the two central characters, Lonny and Alexandra, this novel will appeal to the more sophisticated readers in junior and senior high. Even though the style is complex and the mood is sometimes sombre, there is the message of hope and love that is often prevalent in Brooks' books. Another underlying theme is that of respect - respecting each other and the land. According to a letter sent to Alexandra from her father, Earl McKay, "...we are all guardians of the land on this sacred planet." Alexandra, Lonny and the many characters who surround them are well-developed with realistic, vivid dialogue. The interior monologues of the main characters ring true, as does the portrayal of their social encounters with other young adults. The spirit world of First Nations people is treated with reverence and adds greatly to the texture and mystique of the story. This is a fine novel that will leave readers embracing nature and honouring the spirits of the ancestors. Another splendid book by award-winning Manitoba author Martha Brooks.

Highly recommended.

Cheryl Archer, a student in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, is also the Manitoba Officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364