“These are the words that Loic tyu Taer and Satha tya Monua spoke to our ancestors on the day the Angleni gathered us to this place. How briefly that bright light shone—yet how powerfully! Nevertheless, all is not lost. Tell your children this prophecy ,and let your children tell their children, and those children must tell the future generations—because the prophesied time will come. In the last days, the light will shine again with power and permanence. Use these memories as a beacon, my children, for the time will come when the Great Chief will return to us our land and all that is ours.”
I wanted to quote the preface because it sets up the tone for Wind Follower: an oral history passed on by a husband and wife who know it better than anyone else. Like the Jews of the Old Testament, they are to pass down the truth from generation to generation.
Loic and Satha trade off telling their stories, which are both a powerful love story and a true story about the God who came to seek those who looked for Him. Satha was a very moral young woman whose mother berated her for being so dark-skinned that no man would want her. However, one day Loic, the son of the First Captain of the King’s soldiers, saw her and instantly fell in love with her. Satha is from the Theseni tribe, but Loic is from the Doreni tribe; this means she must learn how to run a household Doreni style, cook Doreni style, and dress Doreni style. In a few short chapters we see that there are great differences in the customs and beliefs of these two tribes. The rites and ceremonies of a wedding are given in detail. There are clashes between Satha’s bossy mother and some of the Doreni women, but these seem to improve. But there always underlying hints of treachery and hate. Taer, Loic’s father, has greater problems than seen at first blush, thanks to an adulterous wife and a former friend, Noam, who sought vengeance against Taer. After the beautiful wedding and a home of her dreams, Satha should be living happily ever after. And for a while it seems that she is, but one horrible day, when the men of the household are gone for a royal funeral, Noam strode in, demanding hospitality. That night he raped the very pregnant Satha, killing the baby in the process. His intention is to start a war with Taer. Much more than that ensues, and for a while the reader wonders how, or if, things ever become right again. Something is lost, but something is gained as Loic and Satha must endure different paths of heartache and maturing before they find the truth that both of them had been seeking.
I haven’t touched on the spiritual side yet, but it underlies the whole story and is essential to it. The Theseni tribe is very moral, but their scriptures only hint at the truth of the “Good Maker.” The Doreni are more pragmatic but given to feuds and wars. They believe in a Creator, but they, like the Theseni, have traditions steeped in worship of ancestors and spirits, A third tribe, the Ibeni, are quite immoral. All three try to appease the Arkhai, the demons who really rule them. But in the Doreni prophets a Lost Book is spoken of. Loic openly rebels against the spirits, determined to worship only the Creator and to find this Lost Book, even if he must go to the invading Angleni.
I could go on and on, just setting up the background to this rich fantasy, a fantasy that is almost a history with anthropological and sociological treasures. It is quite violent at times, and there is some rather brutal abuse of women. There are customs described that have been a part of several cultures over the ages, including stoning, taking over the wives of a defeated enemy, marrying more than one wife. It is not always a pretty story, but neither is the Old Testament. One section reminded me of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael. In some ways it made parts of the Old Testament come alive for me. especially Genesis and I and II Kings. Early in the novel, when Satha is looking at the constellations and remembering the stories behind them, I was reminded of the passage in Romans 1 where Paul wrote that the heavens declare the creation of God, so that “they” are without excuse; instead they have made things of wood and stone to worship in His stead.
When I wrote to Carole McDonnell, she told me she had two verses in mind when she began to write Wind Follower: "He was wounded in the house of his friends," and "He has put eternity in their hearts." From there she wove a tapestry of the strands of hospitality as an extreme priority in a culture and a strand of a guest who betrays his host by wounding him. The ultimate wounds were those given to Jesus.
This review is a good deal longer than I wanted to write, but I couldn’t see making it any shorter. I must give this book a high rating, but with a warning for the faint of heart: don’t take any preconceived notions of culture with you, and leave some of your sensitivities at the threshold. If you do, you’ll be better able to grasp the full richness and the deep lessons of Wind Follower.
Wind Follower is being featured this week at Christian Fiction Review Blog (http://cfrblog.blogspot.com/). A list of other reviewers is available at this site, as well as daily blogs on Carole McDonnell and her book for the week of December 2, 2007.
Wind Follower by Carole McDonnell
Paperback: 248 pages; $12.95
Publisher: Juno Books (August 15, 2007)
Available through Amazon, or Juno