The Spirit Keeper. K. B. Laugheed. Plume. September 2013. 353 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780142180334.
Syawa, a holy man or seer, has a vision that mandates he seek and save “the Creature of Fire and Ice,” a gift he will bring to his native Indian people that will bring immortality. Katie O’Toole is that gift! Syawa and his good friend and bodyguard, Hector, travel across the United States to accomplish this sacred mission. Katie at the time is living in poverty and abusive misery in Pennsylvania and doesn’t realize at all that her salvation is at hand when a murderous band of Indians on March 2, 1747 attack her home. They murder her father and almost everyone in her family except her mother, sister, and Katie. She stands up to one of them with a gun but is captured by Syawa. No, she’s not kept for sexual purposes; she really doesn’t understand the immense value she holds for him but it does remain so for the entire duration he knows. Hector, on the other hand, believes she is trouble for them and yet refrains from saying anything further out of his obvious adoration of the seer in Syawa.
As they travel, they perform the story of their journey as they arrive in other Indian villages. They even meet certain colonists who try to save Katie from Syawa and Hector and are quite surprised that she chooses to remain with them. This then is the story of that perilous journey. At one point they are captured by renegades who suggest great danger but whom they manage to escape, a scene in which Katie shows her daring mettle and during which she amazes Syawa and Hector who believe this is mystical ability rather than sheer bravado.
A tragic occurrence occurs and Hector is left alone with Katie. He comes to believe she now has the ability of a seer and yet there are moments when both are close to something indescribable which will take time to emerge to full acknowledgment. Multiple adventures, threats, challenges, etc. from both humans and animals, constantly pose danger to the couple. What they will or not become leave the reader tense with anticipation, questions, doubts and finally joy.
Katie, Syawa and Hector are dynamic characters who defy stereotypical characterization and never fail to thrill their readers. The Spirit Keeper is a lovely, engaging reader with just enough tension and intrigue to fascinate any lover of contemporary or historical fiction. Simple and profound truths exist within its pages and hold it notches above other Native American fiction. Nicely done, K. B. Laugheed!