I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name - Margaret Craven

"She waited as if she had waited all her life, as if she were part of time itself, gently and patiently. Did she remember that in the old days the Indian mother of the Kwakiutl band who lost a child kicked the small body three times and said to it, 'Do not look back. Do not turn your head. Walk straight on. You are going to the land of the owl'?" 


I was recommended this book for my Canada project. Although written by an American, the story is set in British Columbia and tells of a young vicar who is sent to live with a native tribe. The reason for this is not much of a spoiler because it is literally written on the first page: The vicar has been sent to this particular post because his superior learned that the vicar was terminally ill and hoped that his experience with the tribe would help him cope. 


There is some inconsistency in the story about this because the vicar doesn't know he is ill - so, logically, the plot is not rock solid. However, there is more to the story than the vicar's impending death. Craven explores the conflicts that arise between generations, between civilisations, the impact and dependency if one looses touch with the other.


"On Sunday after church the young people returned to school. Many of the tribe went to the river's edge to see them off in the canoes. And the young people regretted going and wanted to go, and the elders wanted to keep them and were relieved when they went. The little dissent went with them, and the village was at peace."


I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a very gentle book, very unassuming, but the naturalist writing and the simplicity with which the story is told ensures that that the story gets the point across -


"You suffered with them, and now you are theirs, and nothing will be the same again."