Saturday, May 31, 2014
Unsafe Travels: Losing St. Christopher by David-Michael Harding
Losing St. Christopher is the second novel in David-Michael Harding’s Cherokee Trilogy. Like the first book, Cherokee Talisman, there is exciting action, interesting historical background, very good character development, and great descriptions of Georgia and Carolina in the 1800s. The second novel continues the story of Totsuhwa a revered warrior/shaman of the Cherokee nation. The tribal leader has seen the “white” politicians and military officers offer treaties and solemn promises to his people only to watch them disregard their written words. Land is annexed illegally from the vast Cherokee homeland for U. S. federal and civilian use. Totsuhwa has resisted the decisions of his fellow tribal leaders to give in and cede their land to keep peace. Gradually, the Cherokee are pushed to the Western areas of their nation by the increasing U. S. economic interests in property, gold, and other abundant natural resources.
The displacement of Cherokee communities accelerates in Losing St. Christopher even though there has been a concerted effort by Cherokee men to assimilate into the white culture. The reasoning of tribal leaders has been that learning English in addition to their native tongue Tsalagi and adopting U. S. clothing and legal customs will somehow save their Cherokee homeland. Even the renowned warrior/shaman Totsuhwa and his wife Galegi send their son Chancellor to a missionary school to learn the white ways. Chancellor excels in his studies and cultural assimilation and sees opportunities for himself and the Cherokee people to protect their heritage. He also works independently to maintain the Cherokee warrior/shaman skills taught to him by his father. Chancellor keeps his fighting fitness and quick aggressive reactions when threatened.
The westward push of the Cherokee regulated by federal and state laws is enforced by U. S. Army and Georgia state troops. Totsuhwa and Chancellor are caught up in the Cherokee resistance movement that includes both legal and, when necessary, violent action. The independent stories of the two Cherokee warriors involve actions that are more on the violent side for the older man and more accepting of the legal side for the younger man. Father and son come together with deadly intent as a result of enforced “Removal” laws. They experience the destruction of their culture, personal and general, at an ever increasing rate and scope. Both Cherokee leaders are severely injured by the tragic “Trail of Tears” banishment of native people from their own land.
As with the first novel in the trilogy, Losing St. Christopher is an exciting, historically informative, and culturally balanced tale of a very volatile period in U. S. history. The writing is simple and direct and the dialogue is realistic and appropriate. The stories continued from the Cherokee Talisman and proceeded at a rapid pace in volume two. The “Talisman” from book one was an arrowhead symbolizing the early history of the Cherokee people. They were hunters who used arrows to provide food and warriors who were ready to defend their land from invaders with arrows. The St. Christopher’s Medal from book two symbolizes the safety implied in two cultures traveling together in mutual respect and dignity toward common goals. Losing St. Christopher was a sad time indeed. I give both of these novels my highest recommendation to readers of all genres of literature. (A review of book one follows this review.)