CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 17 . . . . April 27, 2001
The Castle was a sprawling village. Radiating from the road that ran through it were more than a dozen longhouses the Oneida men had built with long, flexible saplings. Slabs of elm bark chinked with mud and moss kept out the rain. In winter or in foul weather, skins were hung across the openings at each end to stop the wind. There were other long buildings of roughly squared logs, something halfway in appearance between the longhouses and the cabins built by outsiders.A sequel to Circle of Silver (1999) By the Standing Stone continues the adventures of the MacNeil family in 18th century Canada. John's ward, Mack (Charlotte), 15, and brother, Jamie, 13, are kidnaped by Ben Sparks, a cruel and dangerous man who plans to sell Jamie into military service and to use Mack for himself. Fur trader Elias Stack rescues the young MacNeils and turns them over to Owela, the Oneida youth conscripted by John to locate his missing charges. With Owela, they travel to Boston where the MacNeil family ship, the Odonata, is docked, preparatory to returning a reluctant Mack and Jamie to England.
In Boston, Owela leads them to John's contact person, Paul Revere, who lends what assistance he can as they await John's arrival. Boston simmers with political unrest in the winter of 1773, culminating in the Boston Tea Party, December 16th, in which Mack, Jamie, and Owela play a role. The menace of Sparks overshadows their days until John arrives to extend his protection. The MacNeil party and Olewa journey overland from Boston to Fort Detroit on their way back to John's home on Peche Island.
In addition to the hardships of travel, Jamie sustains an injury that necessitates their spending more than six weeks at the Oneida Castle, home of Owela's people, "The People of the Standing Stone." Mack experiences Oneida culture and discovers love in her months at the Castle, but returns willingly to Peche Island with John. When loneliness overwhelms Mack in the ensuing months, John suggests she learn to "take what there is. Friendship, family, the kindness of strangers, all those things are like a wall that can hold back loneliness." However, Mack's aloneness is alleviated only when Owela returns and the young people decide to accept their cultural differences and share their lives.
Trottier presents a portrait of 18th century life in the New World through strongly descriptive language and attention to the details of daily life. Mack is a strong-willed young woman, accustomed to the freedom of life in the wild and extremely reluctant to rejoin British "civilization." Trottier imbues her with qualities of courage and determination as she matures and allows her to choose staying in Canada over returning to England. Although the focus of this novel is solidly on Mack's coming of age, the relationship among the MacNeils and their friends is carefully delineated underscoring the interdependence of people struggling against harsh conditions. Trottier devotes considerable attention to providing an historical glimpse of life among the Oneida during the 1770's, infusing an aura of mysticism to their culture. On the political front, the American Revolution begins as this segment of "The Circle of the Silver Chronicles" concludes, suggesting that the next volume might focus on that time frame and feature Jamie. For the reader's convenience, Trottier includes two maps of the area drawn by John MacNeil as well as an "Author's Note" revealing her personal connection to the story.
Darleen Golke is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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