One narrative focuses on members of a native tribe in Florida from 1760 onwards. The instantly likable characters strive to preserve their heritage against the forces of the English and Spanish intruders. The peaceful and nature-loving characters form a wonderful thread through the rest of the book that deals with more contemporary issues.
Journalists, politicians, and business men crowd the stage in a cleverly plotted and excellently told thriller. Exploitation of nature, affairs, family secrets, and murder are just some of the many spicy ingredients that make this novel so entertaining. I was warned that there would be many characters in this book, and that is true, but the different narratives focus thoroughly on each party in turn and are easily discerned. The characters were drawn memorable enough to make it very easy to keep track of them.
There are some surprising connections and twists within the political plot, which focuses on a controversial housing project and the outrageous plan that lies behind it, involving poachers, environmentalists, and an election. As people are being bumped off, the plot thickens and keeps the pace fast and captivating.
I loved the way in which the past and present story lines turn out to be connected, and I loved the well-planted parallels between the two narratives and the warm feel of the book. This is an excellent and uplifting moral tale that did not lecture or patronize, a gripping and entertaining thriller with depth and wonderful characters.
Native Lands is a gripping and entertaining thriller with depth, wonderful characters, and well-planted parallels between the two engaging narratives. There is a beautiful and warm feel of Native Lands. A truly great read. ~Christoph Fishcher, Bestselling author of historical fiction
From the Author
In the beginning, that wasn't the plan. I only mentioned briefly the Native American tribe, the Timucuans of north Florida as a reference point. But then as I did more research I realized I needed to tell the story of this tribe, estimated to have a population of 200,000 when the Spanish landed in St. Augustine to extinction by 1763, and I needed to tell it in more detail. This concept that a whole group of people living in a large portion of north Florida and south Georgia could simply disappear from the face of the earth fascinated and puzzled me.
Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Did this happen to you while writing Native Lands?
Absolutely. No question that the characters of Locka and Mali came to me unbidden when I had the novel almost completed. I was visiting the spot where the last of these people lived in the St. Augustine area. I was staying with my daughter, and I would wake up in the middle of the night and write their story on scraps of paper and then I'd file them in my journal. At first, I thought I might write a chapter or two about them, but them it turned into their whole story and their thread became a parallel story within the context of the overall theme about balance and preservation of the natural world.
The book is set in Florida, both in St. Augustine and the Everglades. Does it play an essential role in the plot?
Yes. I believe setting is its own character in almost everything I write. Certainly the landscape of Florida inspires me. I lived there for thirty years and saw firsthand the destruction of natural resources all in the name of progress and tourism. When I worked as a reporter, covering local politics, I became appalled at all the machinations that take place behind the scenes. For little of it has to do with human and natural resources. And of course, the environment in Florida, from the beaches to the marshes to the springs to the climate, is integral to living there. They all make great plot devices as well.
What would you say is the overriding message you tried to convey in Native Lands?
The story came to me as I covered different stories around the state. I wrote about the destruction of mangrove forests and the near-extinction of the Florida panther. Then I went to the Everglades to do research and went on a private airboat tour of the rivers there. The driver told me about a crab that had been found off one of the islands with a tag that said, "St. Augustine." It made it around the peninsula in a year. It made me think about the connection we all have with one another and how nature depends on one species for the rest to survive. That's the message I hope I conveyed. When we destroy one thing, we diminish us all.