Summary: In the Northwest Territories with her adoptive parents and brother on an archaeological dig, Amy unexpectedly travels back in time, finding herself with the Dene people. Appearing with a herd of caribou, Amy is thought to be able to summon them, and is welcomed into the tribe as a result. After initially trying to escape, Amy quickly learns the ways of the Dene people, forming relationships and watching the months pass by. Just as Amy has given up on ever returning home, deciding to agree to get married, the caribou appear once more and carry her away – taking her back to her own time only four days later forever changed and with a lot of explaining to do.
Number of Pages: 144
Age Range: 14-16
Review: A slow but well-paced read, Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon is best described as an anthropological study of the Dene people who lived 1600 years before present day. Amy’s character is the perfect observer of their beliefs and practices, but still allows her personal beliefs to drive her actions when she feels it is necessary.
Gordon brings out the Dene people’s belief in connectedness and their ability to use all resources available to them to live off the land. As an adopted daughter, Amy’s biological parents have Native roots, and living with the Dene people gives her a chance to explore that part of herself. Her relationship with Setsuna, a grandmother in the tribe, is especially healing when it comes to the rift she feels inside over her parents giving her up. Reading about Setsuna’s gradual demise was heart-rending, though I enjoyed seeing how Amy stayed true to her convictions about family even in light of the tribes’ beliefs.
But my favourite part was when Amy is reunited with her family. In her view she’s been living with the Dene people for three months, and in her family’s view she has been gone for only four days. Amy has a wild haircut and has picked up the habits of the Dene people, wiping her fingers in her hair and teaching her brother how to kill squirrels to eat. I laughed out loud at her parents’ horrified reactions to their new, ‘wild’ girl and loved that her brother immediately believed her story.
Daughter of Strangers is not a reluctant read, but it is quite informative and has a lot of heart. Amy’s unexpected journey matures her and also gives her some spunk. She definitely has gained huge amounts of respect and awe in the eyes of her brother, and I wonder how her changes will play out when she moves back south.
I had quite a few memorable quotes, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
“A few days ago, Amy’s dad had found a long, tapered lance point in Amy’s backdirt and she’d mixed a diamond-shaped, stemmed lance point from the Middle Taltheilei level in with a small side-notched arrowhead from Late Taltheilei. Her dad had lectured, but had held back on how upset he was. Nonetheless, she had struck back, shouting at him, ‘I don’t belong with this family.’ He had told her what he had said many times before, that he and Mom had chosen her because they wanted her.
Once, she had used the part about being chosen when she was angry at Bob for following her around when she wanted to play with her girlfriends. She had blurted out, ‘Mom and Dad chose me, but they had to take you.'” – Amy using the explanation of her adoption against her brother from Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, pages 36-37
“‘She is prettier than Thanaltha, My Older Brother, for her eyes tell everything that she feels. Her heart shines through her eyes like sunlight through the water of a pond.'” – Naiti from Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, page 41
“The stars were a thread, binding her to those she loved. She sensed her mom and dad and brother through time and distance but that was not enough. How she wished her mom could hold her, or her family sit beside her instead of this strange Indian boy, who every now and then lifted his head and wailed his pain. But time was a space surely as the land and sky that surrounded them. Like the sky, it was a space she could not cross on her own.” – Amy from Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, page 113
“They did not sleep, but sat until the small flame between them faded to glowing coals. The only thing either of them had said all night was about the sky and yet it was like they had talked for hours. No, it was more like they had listened and heard and understood. They had swallowed each other’s sadness, two bodies with one full heart.” – from Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, page 114
“The fish were pleased. Hook and line held. Amy pulled a grayling onto shore. In spite of the sweet taste of the fish, she had to will herself to sit up to eat it. She was like a motor whose fuel had run out so completely that it was no longer primed to start. She forced herself to chew slowly, to get every bit of juice from the meat.” – Amy from Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, page 130
Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon, is published by Oberon Press, (2001).