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A boy growing up on an Indian reservation has few occupations open to him. In this story of the reservation life on the coast of Washington, in the early 1940’s, Patricia Beatty dramatises the difficulties a Quileute Native American boy named Roy Adams encounters trying to realise his modest ambition of becoming an automobile mechanic.
The arrival of a new teacher, Miss Green, coincides with the appearance of a pair of sea otters, mother and pup, on the offshore waters. These originally unconnected events both raise problems for Roy, an in the course of their resolution the author draws a subtle parallel between the relationship of the nearly extinct animals to each other and the hostile, suspicious boy to the dispassionate, determined teacher. Just as the pup needs his mother’s protection from marauders, so Roy Adams needs his teacher’s help to escape from his brutalising environment.
Mrs. Beatty lived in the Quileute village of La Push, Washington, for four years, and the first-hand knowledge of her characters and setting shows in every word of this compelling novel.
With the same dignity born of experience manifested in Squaw Dog (1965), another embodiment of acculturation conflicts in Washington's Quileute Indian village. Roy Adams, fourteen in the 1940's, is the nucleus of two tensile relationships: with his father Jack, angry, degenerate, suspicious of everything white and unsympathetic to Roy's ambition to become an auto-mechanic; and with the new local teacher Miss Green, key to eight-grade graduation, the one prerequisite for the technical schooling Roy craves. Her old Model A is a magnet but Roy stays mistrustful until she shows him the rare pair of sea otters: she pledges him to secrecy, he thinks she's after their valuable pelts but learns differently — nobody kills a sea otter; Roy later defends them against a maniacal hunter... his father. The otters' entry into the story is oddly executed by means of shared chapters paralleling their movements to those of the land-pairs, a technique that does call attention to itself. But if the correspondence is not entirely smooth or viable, every detail of both portraits is managed impeccably. This remains Roy's story, told with impressive integrity to the time and the place and the people. KIRKUS REVIEW