Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Light in the Forest

I teach in a middle school, so more and more I am reading books because I will be reading them with my class.  Recently we read a book called The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter.  The book takes place during the 1760s in the Pennsylvania territory.  The premise is that a young boy of fifteen was kidnapped at the age of four and raised by an American Indian tribe.  Eleven years later, a treaty is signed and all white captives must be given back to their families - whether they want to go back or not.  True Son, the main character, has no memory of his white family and considers them his enemy.  As his birth family tries to reintegrate him into "civilization," True Son struggles with his loyalties and identities as both Indian and English.

This book is great for teaching because it generates fantastic discussion.  Themes of racism, tragedy, loyalty and family are just as familiar today as in 1760, and students can identify with these issues.  The characters are well defined, the plot is clear, and the setting is described in detail - all of which makes it useful for teaching state standards.  It is also a guy book, so if you are teaching a group of young boys (like I am), it's a great book because it will keep them engaged.  There is some violence and whatnot, and let's face it - scalping keeps even the most bored 13 year old boy involved.

Having said that, I didn't enjoy the book all that much.  I'm not a 13 year old boy, so I don't enjoy scalping and shooting.   I also, as a mother, had a hard time reading the part that flashes back to his kidnapping...I identified waaaay too much with the mother to enjoy the reading.  The style of the book is also not my particular taste. Richter gives many long-winded, beautiful descriptions of mountains and forests and rivers.  All of that is lovely, but I don't enjoy reading such descriptions.  There's nothing wrong with them, it's just not my cup of tea.

Let me be clear: this is a fine book.  Well written, good story, well communicated.  It's a great book for generating discussion and helping readers think about broad issues, and it's a book that I would recommend to teenage boys looking for a good read.  It was just not a personal favorite of mine.

Scale of 1-5: 3
What's up next: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Top Five TBR:
1. Mommywood by Tori Spelling (that was just plain embarrassing to type; I'll try to explain myself when I review it)
2. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
5. Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

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