Losing St Christopher

Harding steps up to the position of First Rank in history novels

Review by Grady Harp

When an author has the ability to transfer intensive research into a subject planned for a novel and then transform that historic information into a thrilling and eloquently written work, it is a feat of passion for writing and for the topic about which the book is conceived. For those who have had the distinct pleasure of reading David-Michael Harding’s recreation of WW II in HOW ANGELS DIE, then this recreation of American history from 1775 to 1821 and the manner in which America destroyed the Native Americans in order to take over the land being wrestled from British colonization will not come as surprise. Here, finally, is a two sided view of what really happened during that now embarrassing and shameful period in our country’s history.

The story is fact, embellished by Harding’s poetic prose. It is a touching tale of the legendary Cherokee war chief Tsi’yugunsini, the Dragon, taking a little orphan boy, Totsuhwa, under his wing. It is this passage of rights and power that places Totsuhwa in a world where he must be the one to defend the very existence of the Cherokee nation against the terrifying odds of facing General Andrew Jackson. The story is powerful, enlightening, and told with the force of a spear headed right for the heart. But despite the fact that the historical aspects are so clear, it is the language with which Harding tells the story that makes it a monumental achievement.

In LOSING ST. CHRISTOPHER Harding continues the story of Totsuhwa and it is best to serve the author with his own distillation of the plot: `Totsuhwa, the revered shaman of the Cherokee Nation, struggles against the assimilation of his people into the white world of men he sees as invaders. The colonists, along with Cherokee who are trying to bridge both worlds, see him as a barbarous threat. When Totsuhwa’s visions show him the outcome, it is as black as his deep set haunting eyes. Chancellor, his son, takes a white wife following study at a missionary school and the shaman’s fears seem realized. Conflicts between cultures and within the family erupt when Totsuhwa’s only grandchild is forced onto the Trail of Tears. In the chase that follows, an estranged love fights to stem the ugly flow of racism that is moving in two directions.’ Those words , of course are the bare bones of a story so gripping that reading this book , especially after reading Part I, will alter the way we think about the ugly secrets of this country’s past.

The release of this book is so timely, with the recent death of the last of the Navajo Code Talkers. Other Indian tribes took part in this important aspect of the result of WW II and Harding’s book honors that element of our history as well as a general homage to a great people forsaken by invaders. David-Michael Harding is not only a fine writer, he is also a humanitarian who is helping to restore the dignity of the American Indian.

Grady Harp, June 9, 2014

ISBN: 9780985728526

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