Sky Walker Tehawennihárhos: CHARTER

Canadian folkways lean on immigrants’ and Indigenous’ stories.

“I can give her no greater power than she has already,’ said the woman; ‘Don’t you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kai, we can do nothing to help her.” the Finnish woman, in Hans Christian Andersen, Snedronningen (the Snow Queen)

“Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man… and give some back.”  Ellis Albert (Al) Swearengen, Deadwood, created by David Milch

“Meanwhile, Skunny Wundy was watching from he other side of the river. He had heard that any weapon touched by the saliva of a Stone Giant would have magical power and now he knew that it was true.  . . . For the rest of his life Skunny Wundy told anybody who would listen the story of his encounter with the Stone Giant, but nobody ever believed him.” Arthur Caswell Parker, Collected Stories of Skunny Wundy

 

Four seasons of the Carolinian forest, encompassing the Grand River of Ontario. The forest is home to kind hearts, stone giants (villains), and tough folks, those “who give some back.” The Mohawk trilogy covers one year, starting in summer, 1845 and ending in spring, 1846.

Anonymous reviewer, Friesen Press: The [Grand River] saga is a gripping piece of historical fiction that both entertains and provides readers with a real sense for the times.

From its intriguing beginning (‘Tit-for-tat bore thinking on. There was good payback and evil payback’) to its exciting conclusion, this book is filled with interesting, jump-off-the-page characters and action.

Helping move the pace along is how [Minsos has] divided up the narrative so it is told with an individual focus on Jennet, Jeddah, and Squire. This serves to highlight the excellent characterization of the main characters and the skill in crafting the language, thought processes, and mannerisms of each to create unique, believable personalities. The descriptive and inimitable writing style is another plus for readers. In particular, I appreciated the unique turn of phrase. Examples of this include: ‘A once busy place was yoo-hoo empty’; ‘Miss Hedy wore mood like a crown near to marking an axle bar betwixt her brows’; and ‘Jeddah was there. Except when he was not.’

This expressive style is complemented by incredibly vivid descriptions of surroundings that provide a real sense of what that setting looked, sounded – and even smelled – like in that era. For example: ‘On a sunny day like this people left their homes to go to market. Skirmishes were frequent. Especially between horses and rickety delivery conveyances, which moved as creaky as our buckboard pulled by old Bonnie our Percheron, and most often between any moving object and the colourful though absent-minded pedestrians. On plank sidewalks capped white women carried baskets to bakeshops or markets and children bounced with nonchalance at mothers’ sides. A lonely white male next to a stable puffed on a long-handled pipe. Horses frisked in their traces inside the livery and the tobacco-smoking liveryman in a haze of smoke snapped a whip. Together two African men hauled a produce-laden handcart into a grocery store. On one corner a grinning toothless brown man hung out at the back-end of a pot-bellied wagon. He sold open-pit grilled chicken livers. And Lake Ontario salmon cakes. I smelled the seared meat and my mouth watered and I bought us each a fishcake, which the smiling monger wrapped up as neat as a pin in a page from the Galt Reporter.’

Because this book ticks all the boxes for action, romance, a strong setting, interesting characters, and cultural insight, I have no doubt [it] will be greatly enjoyed by both lovers of historical sagas and those who may be new to the genre.

 

 

Davisville, between Paris and Brantford, courtesy and with permission of Emily Damstra.

Ruthven Hall, Indiana Ontario, above. Wagner’s Lake, Uxbridge, Ontario 

 

The Women Review

“Sky Walker Tehawennihárhos: Charter is a complex, action-filled novel about the 1840s in Canada West [formerly Upper Canada, now Ontario].

“The Mohawk trilogy, of which Charter is book 3, focuses on the experiences of three outliers after land-hungry American and European settlers invade and take over the Indigenous world.

“Colonial vice and corruption challenge the Six Nations/Haudenosaunee. Historical events raise ethical questions, i.e., charter questions, about people(s) and nation states. We learn what men and women ate, and how they dressed and travelled. And how they entertained themselves—and each other.

“Charter displays the considerable entanglements and surprises we have come to anticipate from Minsos. Her storytelling blends absorbing narratives with scandalous and shameful facts you didn’t learn in school, all done as divergent threads weave the plot lines into a colourful tapestry.

“Leading us through the suspenseful plot, filled with humour and emotion, Minsos writes spare, clean prose. The late Mel Hurtig once said about her style, “Every word is right.” In Minsos’ books we witness survival struggles, stereotypical biases and gender inequity. We follow the trail of shady land sharks and opportunistic religious scoundrels. Exposing documented thievery and tragic events of a place and time in our pre-Confederation history, the fabric of fiction is such that it allows us to glimpse into the heart of the indomitable human spirit.  

“We cannot undo the past. But we can shape our destiny. A history lesson, yes. But such a joy to read.” 

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