Monday, December 22, 2008

When the Legends Die by Hal Borland

Thomas Black Bull and his parents return to the wilderness to live in the old way after Thomas' father kills a man. When his father dies in an accident and his mother follows as a result of illness and grief soon after, Thomas is left alone. He has no desire to return to the white man's world and lives peacefully on his own for several years, befriending an orphaned bear cub along the way and renaming himself Bear's Brother.

Eventually, he is discovered and forced to attend school in town, where he is miserable. The teachers and officials at the school, some well-meaning and some not, try to "help" and "civilize" him. In the process, they make him ever more angry and miserable as they take away his connection with the old ways.

I loved the first and last parts of this book, but the middle, where Thomas becomes a brutal bronco rider known as Killer Tom, lost me. Readers who enjoy action may well like this part, but I was appalled at Thomas' brutality and had a hard time feeling sympathetic towards him.

In the end, Thomas is redeemed and manages to recapture his connection to his past. While the "happy" ending may be perceived as a bit too neat, I like to believe that this is how life is--that we all have the ability, however deeply it hides inside of us, to be true to ourselves.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

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