From Publishers Weekly
Savage's (Summer Hawk) ambitious coming-of-age novel combines historical facts with contemporary mystery, supernatural occurrences, romance and tragedy. The result, unfortunately, is a rather disjointed saga revolving around 17-year-old Wim Thorpe's heritage. Professor David Te Makara, a stranger from New Zealand, provides the key in unlocking ancient secrets about Wim's ancestors. The academic arrives at the Thorpes' door in Provincetown, Mass., with his niece and ends up lodging in their family cottage to do "research." The professor slowly uncovers evidence that he and Wim are distantly related. Meanwhile, plenty of other distractions further unsettle the heroine's muddled emotions: her memory of a friend who died of anorexia; Kia, Wim's visionary great-aunt; a rare white heron, or kotuku, Wim spots intermittently; a wild horse she is trying to tame; and "the man with the tattooed face," a ghostly figure, who periodically haunts both Wim and Aunt Kia and who bears a striking resemblance to the professor. While the book offers insight into the exploitation of native New Zealanders, its clutter of subplots disrupts the flow of the story, and the romance may stretch readers' credibility. Ages 12-up.
From School Library Journal
Grades 7-10--Readers immediately understand that this book will be different when they read about the main character's recurring vision of a Maori tribesman in the first sentence. Lyrical descriptions of emotions and the Cape Cod setting further lift the novel above many in the problem-novel genre. Wim is trying to overcome her feelings of grief engendered by her best friend's death. In an effort to avoid her pain, the 17-year-old becomes intensely involved with her work at the riding stable and her interest in nature study, almost to the exclusion of everything else. When required to care for her elderly great-aunt, the teen feels typically resentful and overwhelmed. As she begins to welcome Aunt Kia's fiery spirit, a charismatic young man and his niece arrive from New Zealand to do research, and Wim learns about her Maori heritage. This interesting plot twist winds in and out among intricate family relationships, first romance, a quest for self-understanding, mystery, and adventure to create a first-rate novel. Sophisticated readers will understand the symbolism of the great white heron and the Maori man with the tattooed face who keeps appearing to Wim and her aunt. Readers interested in independent heroines searching for an elusive dream will immerse themselves in this complex but rewarding novel. It will find a wider audience than Savage's A Rumour of Otters (Houghton, 1986; o.p.).
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Susan Cooley, Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE
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