Any Day That Ends in YA – The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed

photoI had a case of reader’s peckishness over the later part of last week and I tried to read Tijan’s Carter Reed and I wasn’t feeling it. Opened up and got to chapter eight on Flight, the First book of the Crescent Chronicles. I got to 40% of Love in the Time of Global Warming. Barely made it into Endless by Amanda Gray, which is one I’m supposed to review for NetGalley–not sure what I’m going to do there. And I bought but didn’t even tap into the Bayou Heat books by Alexandra Ivy & Laura Wright. I was sort of having my own version of my baby sister’s attention span on book boyfriends.

Finally yesterday, with the blood vessels in my head trying to evict either my brain matter or protesting the housing of my skull… somehow I managed to get two books read. I don’t know what it says about me that I can do more reading with a migraine than I can without one.

The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed was really an incredibly great book. I hate making statements like that because I can hear my Photography Instructor from college saying in the back of my mind that that is not the correct way to give valuable criticism. But this book really is a great book. (Nancy, I am going to qualify it now! I swear.)

K.B. Laugheed begins her book with a disclaimer about how words and speech evolve and how she used speech, spelling, grammar and syntax in her book which was common to the time that the book was written. I think that this small message perked my interest and really pulled me out of my ennui with just thinking about what K.B Laugheed was saying.

“This variation is a result of the fact that language lives inside the heads of the people who use it, and, like any living thing, it wanders and grows and it becomes something other than what it once was. The spelling of a word can change. The pronunciation of a word can change. The meaning of the word can change. Therefore, if you have any hope of understanding this story as the author wrote it, read quickly–before it all changes.”

Katie O’Toole’s life is self-narrated but in a way that you are being told from the start that she is very changed from the girl she introduces at the start of the story. On page one Katie begins by saying, “I wish I could say this is a true and honest account, but I see no way the likes of me can make such a claim. Still, I’ve no reason to lie in the pages of this ledger and plenty of reasons to unburden my guilty soul.” K.B. Laugheed does a beautiful job of giving a blurry view of a foggy past of a young girl through her own biased eyes in a tale full of shame, hope, heartache, and fear in a year of wonderful devastation.

In the year 1747, Katie O’Toole lives with her family, quite unhappily, in the wilds of Lancaster Pennsylvania. So early in American history that the colonies haven’t even seen the Revolutionary War yet and the French, Spanish and English are all happily grabbing for land, wealth and anything else that makes them feel like they have the bigger… country. Katie has moved with her family from Ireland after her father has shamed his family by marrying beneath him and Katie’s parents have been exiled. Her father has brought them to America for a new life but all she has known is his wastrel manner and her mother’s cruel hand. After endless heartache and misfortune, the O’Toole’s move from Boston, to Philadelphia and then to Lancaster. Katie holds hope in her heart of returning to the bustle and wonder of Philadelphia and leaving the horror she knows with her family on the Pennsylvania Frontier. But the events of the day when savages attack her family’s home and take her captive not only take her physically further from the Pennsylvania metropolis but emotionally she finds herself worlds away from the life she once knew there.

Much to Katie’s mother’s scorn she is treated well by two of the savages who were part of the indian attack on her home. Katie, who is torn between loyalty to her pretty horrible family and a her curiosity with her questionable situation, finds that when presented with the option of going with the two natives who claim she is part of a vision that the holyman, Syawa, has had–thumbs her nose at her mother to leave with them. If only her desire to stick it to her mother lived as long as her courage required it too.

SpiritKatie has no scope of the journey she has undertaken with Hector and Syawa. At the beginning of her travels she believes that they are ignorant savages and she has played on their superstitions. It quickly becomes apparent to her that she really doesn’t know much about the world. She most definitely doesn’t know about the people she is traveling with. And Syawa assures her that she does not know herself. But soon she begins to learn that with every new thing she comes to understand, the knowledge of how little she knows becomes a larger and larger burden to carry.

K.B. Laugheed blends Christianity and mysticism to look at the fine art of storytelling. Katie witnesses very early Syawa’s ability to hold others spellbound when he is telling a tale. What she learns from him is that she has her own stories to tell. But in telling the stories that she was taught growing up she finds that she might not have understood them as well as she thought she did. And she may have assumed a greater knowledge of those stories based on the fact that those who told her those were more intelligent than she was. In looking harder into European and Native ideals and customs Katie begins to accept and reject facts of her life. Who she knew as her mother and father’s daughter and who she is as the object of Syawa’s Vision all becomes something that she questions and the answers that she begins to seek. Not only does she come to finally understand herself, but she also comes to understand the motivations and desires of others.

K.B. Laugheed does a good deal of soul searching but this novel has action, drama, comedy, mystery, mysticism… Really there is a little bit of everything in it. I was so excited in the beginning when I started reading it because I didn’t think that it could be as simple as what I was reading that I went and tried to spoil myself but even with what I did go and read it never prepared me for even a fifth of what happened. I think that I got to feel almost every emotion on the chart while I read this book. And I still wanted more.

I will throw in that I had one complaint and it was something that I want to phrase as “annoying realism”. When I sit down and I try to write the story of my life with my husband and I try to think back to how we met and how I jumped a Greyhound and rode across the country to meet him, I have gray cloudy spots. I am bipolar and make poor decisions and put myself in bad situations and create terrible problems that when I go to remember them later I will remember the highlight and then say something along the lines of, “Well x,y and z must have happened because that is logical.” K.B. Laugheed has Katie use this in a lot of places and I do think that reality would be that way. If you were traveling by foot or in a canoe (or Greyhound Bus) across the plains in Autumn you won’t remember every village you stopped in or what happened. That will all melt together. But for the sake of a story, maybe a little less of that. Sometimes it just felt like the author was being lazy. Sometimes it’s important to remember one really clear useless piece of information that has no value. Like when you remember the car number of the cab that took you home the night you were too drunk to remember the person you were with.

This book ends with a promise of a sequel. It’s actually a very warm and comfortable promise. I don’t know who to send my money to for pre-order but I already have my yen set aside. I guess I’m hoping it is a Japanese book seller.

I loved that this book is a love story about learning to know love in the world. I can’t say it enough. I wish more of these books existed!

You should go check out K.B. Laugheed’s webpage where she totally is a fibber… because she can not be the daughter of Lucy Ricardo! If she were then her father OBVIOUSLY is not James T. Kirk. Her Twitter should you want to go about tweeting her about her questionable heritage. The Penquin Group website link to the book has the book trailer to it… must say, worst sounding Irish woman I’ve ever heard. Sounds like a damned English woman to me and as a Crean I’d know an Irish woman. We should kill the red headed woman in this video. She’s not the real woman of Fire and Ice. ~Wow that one is going to get me more therapy.

I did get this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is an honest review so as far as I am concerned I think my work is done here. Let’s see if I can mess up something somewhere else now…


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