Selkie Dreams, by Kristin Gleeson

4 Stars
Belfast, 1895. Haunted by her mother's death, Máire McNair is lured by the selkie myth to the promise of the Alaskan wilds to fulfil her dream of finding acceptance.
Cunning and determination get her there in the guise of teaching at the Tlingit Indian mission. But Alaska proves more complex and difficult than she imagined, and the hope that this new place would transform her is elusive as ever.

The censorious Mrs. Paxson, the wife of the trading post manager, constantly finds fault with Máire's efforts to instruct the native children. She has her own plans and Máire is in the way. Will Máire be able to forge her own way and make a success of her teaching? And what should she do about the handsome yet moody Lieutenant Green who is aggressively courting her?

Natsilane is the Tlingit erstwhile mission protégé. Troubled and disaffected, he finds himself battling Máire's naive views and prejudices as he seeks to regain his own cultural identity by resuming a traditional lifestyle that draws from the Tlingit myth. But he cannot escape his past with the mission, nor can he or Máire escape the mutual attraction they feel. In a world that permits no rule breakers, will the power of myths trump all?

Originally from Philadelphia, Kristin Gleeson lives in Ireland, in the West Cork Gaeltacht, where she teaches art classes, plays harp, sings in an Irish choir and runs two book clubs for the village library. She holds a Masters in Library Science and a Ph.D. in history, and for a time was an administrator of a national denominational archives, library and museum in America. There she handled the letters, diaries, reports and artefacts of Alaskan missionaries and assisted Tlingit Indians in recovering their land and their past. Later, she served as a public librarian in America and in Ireland.

She has also published short stories and historical essays. Her essay, ‘Blazing Her Own Trail: Anahareo’s Rejection of Euro-Canadian Stereotypes’ was published in, Recollecting: Lives of Aboriginal Women of the Canadian Northwest and Borderlands edited by Sarah Carter and Patricia McCormack, Athabasca University Press, which has been awared the Canadian Historical Association prize for Canadian Aboriginal History.

Myths and other folk tales have always fascinated her and she combined her love of these tales with her harp playing and performed as a professional harper/storyteller at events in Britain, America and Ireland.

This is a wonderful story that is beautifully written! I really felt like I was transported to first Belfast then Alaska (I have always wanted to go to Alaska! LOL). This story, although fiction felt very real to me. The history and traditions of the early Alaskan people were  clearly described here. This book is both interesting and fascinating.
"It is a Deer Ceremony because deer are peaceful," Joseph said. 'After each side has agreed to the gifts to be given, they will have men pretend to be deer, to show peaceful behavior."
"Tlingits do not usually say people's names everywhere and all the time. Names are full of power, full of meaning. When a child is first born, it is weak and the people believe that the spirits in heaven would take the child back, if they knew the child's real name. Later, there are other enemies. You do not always want an enemy to know your power, they might use it against you."
So why only a 4 star rating instead of 5? The beginning of this is real slow, but it pick up once she got to Alaska. Also - This book was not really about Selkies except for the first few pages and a few mentions through the book and then again at the end. Some people expecting a story about Selkies might be disappointed. I was hesitant to read this book at first because I did think it was about Selkies so I was kind of glad that it didn't take over the story. This was more historical fiction about the Alaskan people.

The character development is excellent! I fell in love with Máire, Natsilane, Sarah, and Rebecca as well as all the other Alaskan people. However, I despised Mrs. Paxson. What a self centered, rude, controlling person she was. She was clearly not there to help them, to teach them, or to teach them about God. She was there to control them, change them, and rule over them. She also took it upon herself to judge people and even try to inflict punishment on them. In a very strange and twisted way it reminded me of "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" - I know, I know, you're thinking, huh? But, trust me you have to read both to understand.

All in all I really did love this beautiful story and could not stop reading the last 2/3 of this book.
I know that parts of this will stay with me a long time.
Thank you so much - Knox Publishing for sending me this e-book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I have only read one book about the Tlingit people, and it wasn't a total favorite, but this one sounds much more to my liking. I am glad that you enjoyed this one, and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. You have a great way of expressing your feelings about the things you read. Thanks for sharing this with us!