THE RAVEN'S POOL
By: Deborah Cannon
Trafford Publishing: Victoria, British Columbia
The Raven’s Pool was recommended to me, via
e-mail, from a reader of this monthly review series (Yes, there are
real, live readers out there!), and I must say at the outset that I owe this
anonymous individual a hearty “thank you!”
This novel is simply wonderful in so many ways. Author
Cannon is an archaeologist born in British Columbia and now living with her
archaeologist husband in Ontario. Her knowledge of and love for the
cultures of the Northwest Coast Native Americans is demonstrated over and
over within the pages of this mystery/thriller/romance/ethnography. Yes, it
is all of these in a brief 235 pages.
Archaeologist Jake Lalonde, orphaned as an infant, and
straddling the two worlds of the white man and the Haida culture, is
directing an excavation of shell middens on Cedar Island, one of the San
Juan Islands off the coast of northwest Washington State. The dig was but
an economic necessity for Jake, as he pursued his true passion: the
investigation of shamanism and ritual and in particular, the derivation of
the Raven myth so prevalent in much of Northwest Native American myth and
legend. The discovery of a raven rattle by one of the local inhabitants
gives Jake the impetus he needs to legitimize his quest.
Jake and his crew, which seem to be largely made up of
Jake’s former, present and hoped-for lovers, are confronted by P. Clifford
Radisson, a high rolling entrepreneur and land developer who sets out
methodically to win over Jake’s crew and the local residents to his dream of
building an archaeology theme park, complete with rides, concessions,
hotels, and restaurants—an undertaking, he says, will honor the heritage of
the various cultures of the Northwest Coast, as well as providing
much-needed employment for the local population. Jake finds the prospect to
be an abomination and fights the power and clout of Radisson Enterprises
with all the skill and passion he can muster, but it seems to be a futile
effort. He is almost literally and figuratively crushed by Radisson,
especially when Radisson appears to have won the heart and soul of Jake’s
lover, the beautiful Angeline Lisbon.
The struggle between Jake and Radisson takes on almost
epic proportions as both begin to realize that they are alike in that
Radisson’s obsession is to develop Cedar Island and to sexually conquer
Angeline, and Jake’s obsession is to prove that the Raven myth was based on
a real human being living some 10,000 years earlier to keep Angeline from
surrendering her body and soul to the millionaire developer.
Deborah Cannon has created real characters who achieve,
in many ways, mythic personas as they struggle for what they want; she
lovingly paints word pictures of the beautiful San Juan Islands; and with
great respect she invites us to not only learn much of the lore and legend
of the ancient cultures of this part of the world, but to share in the world
of contemporary Native Americans of the Northwest Coast, including a wedding
potlatch ceremony that brings together the apparently dissonant worlds of
native peoples, archaeologists and developers. She also skillfully
describes the work of real archaeologists doing real archaeology.
As Jake struggles to win Angeline’s love, to save the
island from what he sees as a theme park hell, and to prove his Raven myth
theory, we find that in a real sense Jake is struggling to find himself, his
identity and the family that had abandoned him so long ago.
Deborah Cannon is written a sequel, entitled White
Raven, and I intend to read it as soon as possible. In the meantime,
four trowels for The Raven’s Pool.
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