BOOKS: "Written in Stone" chronicles life of
By Jean Patrick
Daily Republic Book Columnist
Thirteen-year-old Pearl's life changes forever when her father is killed in an unsuccessful whaling expedition off the Pacific coast.
"Written in Stone," by Rosanne Parry, is the quiet, heartfelt story of the struggles of a Makah girl living in a small village along the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula in 1923.
Although Pearl is cared for by her grandparents and extended family, ongoing concerns exist for the entire tribe. The whales are gone, even along Vancouver Island.
Surviving the winter will be difficult for her people. And to make things worse, a so-called art collector from the east is determined to buy her father's regalia, even the Raven mask.
So where does this leave Pearl? She's not going to let the regalia be sold. But she can't seem to figure out how to weave like her deceased mother. As she explains, "Doubt sat in my stomach like bad fish."
But Pearl finds a way to help her tribe in a way that will be just as important. It all begins when she sees a hidden petroglyph and decides to write.
Author Rosanne Parry is a gifted writer, combining the enormity of the tribe's challenge with the insights (and occasional humor) of Pearl. Furthermore, she frames the novel with the story of Pearl's great-granddaughter who participates in a whaling ceremony in 1999.
Parry is familiar with the stories and traditions of the Makah and Quinault people. As a fifth grader, she watched Chief Lelooska tell and dance the Raven stories near Ariel, Wash. As an adult, she taught fifth grade on the Quinault reservation. Often her students asked, "Why is the story never about us?"
With sensitivity and respect, Parry tells their story.
Furthermore, she thanks them. According to Parry, the writer she became has everything to do with the people and the land, "where stories seemed to grow out of the earth ... tall and sturdy as cedars."
"Written in Stone." By Rosanne Parry. Random House, 2013. 206 pp.