CM . . . .
Volume V Number 3 . . . . October 2, 1998
"Whew!" says my friend, Frank Fencepost, "that waitress must have sprayed on her perfume with a crop duster."What's "the precious cargo" in that air-conditioned animal trailer? Why the secrecy, hanging as heavy as hair spray? And that title: "Bleaching the Buffalo"? Twists, turns, revelations and ironic reversals characterize the 12 inter-connected stories comprising The Secret of the Northern Lights. The book is vintage W.P. Kinsella - set mostly in and around the fictional Ermineskin reserve, somewhere in Alberta, (with occasional side trips to such events as the Commonwealth Games). The book features Silas Ermineskin, apprentice to medicine woman Mad Etta (Margueretta Black Horses), and his best buddy, "Brother" Frank Fencepost. Frank is a trickster and Silas, a shaman-in-training, with plenty to learn about the sacred, the profane, and the great grey area in between. The stories are wonderfully crafted, taking situations which are sometimes ordinary (how to divide up an estate amongst eight surviving and feuding children), sometimes poignant (a father kidnaps his daughter from his estranged wife in order to save the girl's life with traditional medicine), and sometimes tragic (a 19-year-old hangs himself, and his friends are left to consider the impact of his suicide on his mother). Amazingly, there is humour in all of these situations. Sometimes it is slapstick, sometimes subtle, and occasionally very dark, indeed. But don't just take my word for it. Read and learn The Secret of the Northern Lights, and other secrets as well.
Joanne Peters is teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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