Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tempest in Pacific Northwest

I admit to being a big fan of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's after her first novel The Effects of Light. I told everyone I knew about that book after I reviewed it for Booklist. I'm happy to say she didn't disappoint me with her sophomore effort, Set Me Free, and I'm eagerly awaiting the third.

Loosely using Shakespeare's The Tempest as a frame, this story is about the journey of one man to another and one daughter to another. Elliot, an educated, well-meaning Easterner with a mysterious past, moves to a desolate Indian reservation in the Pacific Northwest to open a school. His best friend and worst enemy is Cal Fleecing, a native Neige Courant, who is hiding his own past.

Elliott summons his ex-wife, Helen, a renowned Broadway theater director to stage a production of The Tempest in hopes of securing joint support from a wealthy day school in Portland, Oregeon upon approval of the tribal elders. Amelia, Elliott's daughter, has just returned from the white children's boarding school with a terrible secret about her departure. Everyone is hiding something from their pasts--ancient and recent. A tragic fire flushes out the truth for all as they gather to help a fatally injured member of their family.

All the subplots are woven well together and dovetail nicely in the midst of a surprising and logical ending. Characters are fully realized; pace is a combination of leisurely and swift. The literary references to other works are a particular delight to me and will be to those who are widely read, particularly in the classics.

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