Title: The Spirit Keeper
Author: K. B. Laugheed. This is her debut novel.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Readers: Editor Kristina, retiree Sulyn, parents Emry and Sarah L.
Summary: The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O’Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.
In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa’s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa’s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life—and heart—forever.
Our Take: A fun book for readers who want a little bit of everything: history, romance, adventure and more.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Spirit Keeper. It was one of those books that, while not all of the subject matter is pleasant, it is just a joy to read; the story moves at a great pace, the characters are lovable, the writing is simple but lyrical, I could go on. It has a little bit of everything; historical fiction, romance, adventure, spirituality, but it all fits together well.
My only real complaint would be that I think the book would have benefitted from some of Syawa and Hector’s point of view. As it is, there were communication difficulties between the characters, so maybe that was the author’s point – to make the reader just as lost and confused as Katie sometimes was – but it would have been interesting to learn more about their thoughts.
I’m hopeful that the author will write a sequel – I feel like there is much more to hear about Katie, Syawa, and Hector.
K. B. Laugheed’s novel begins with a brutal massacre. Under circumstances that seem too coincidental, young Katie is captured by friendly “savages” (author’s term).
Despite the novel’s weak premise, the author’s creativity soars with rich and unique images of nature, relationships and descriptions of Katie’s attempts at assimilation into Native American culture.
Laugheed paints Katie as an intelligent and courageous young woman. Yet, especially during her precarious encounters with Three Bulls, she possesses qualities that are incongruous with her character. Here, the author betrays Katie’s persona, drawing the reader away from the story. The same occurs when words, expressions, and body language are too modern for the pre-revolutionary times.
Although the novel contains inconsistencies, the writing of “The Spirit Keeper” is very creative. It takes the reader on a journey filled with grand and thrilling adventures with tales of hardship, love and mayhem. Beware. Some scenes are brutal and heart breaking.
Read Also: A gentler cross-cultural novel that takes place in the same time frame as The Spirit Keeper is Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. Also recommended are Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel which is set in prehistoric times, and the contemporary State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
I was excited to read The Spirit Keeper, by K.B. Laugheed, for two reasons. First, I’ve always enjoyed books about Native American culture and early American history. Second, I liked the idea of the Creature of Fire and Ice, the redheaded, blue-eyed heroine.
I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. It came off like a young adult novel to me, with the young narrator and companions and the straightforward storytelling, but I enjoyed reading it. The story moves along quickly and I was very eager to see where the three main characters would end up.
My favorite things about this book were its quick pace, sense of adventure, and all of the comparisons and contrasts between Native American life and that of the early European settlers. Katie, the main character, lived a difficult life with her Irish family before being abducted by Syawa and Hector. While many books about this time in American history paint the Indians as savages, I appreciated that this book turned this expectation around to point out the cruelty that was rampant in Katie’s family life while highlighting the peaceful lifestyles of the Native Americans.
My biggest problem with this book is that it requires some hefty suspension of disbelief. The story is great if it isn’t analyzed or thought about too deeply, especially the style of language and writing in the context that they are meant to be in–Katie’s own journal. I also wonder if this book is meant to be the first of a series, or if there is a sequel to follow, because the end was rather abrupt and I didn’t feel like the reader was given much closure. The plot ends at a strange place, but even Katie’s transformation seems to end up differently than I expected it to, as if she still has more to learn and accept. The book can certainly stand alone, but I’m not sure it’s meant to. And if there are more to come, I will definitely be reading them.
The Spirit Keeper was a completely entertaining read. Laugheed’s writing flowed well and I enjoyed the journal-like quality of the storytelling. The characters were more complex than I expected and fun to get to know. I felt as if I were along on the Journey and was really able to feel a part of the world that the author created.
A few of the issues discussed in Katie’s narrative are very pertinent in our own time: familial abuse, alcoholism, cultural differences, honesty with self and others, and spirituality. The insight that Katie has in relation to many of these issues came about in a believable way and made me pause and think about some of those issues as they touch my own life.
The only complaint I have is that it ended too soon! I wanted to keep reading more about Katie and Hector. Let’s hope that K.B. Laugheed is currently writing a sequel!