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The Silent Stranger

by Janet Beeler Shaw
Series: American Girl Mysteries #
120 pages, Mystery
Reviewed by Ariel_of_Narnia

Good values, but terribly wrong spiritual beliefs throughout.

Plot

A lone woman winds up in Kaya’s village. She never speaks and cannot communicate with her burned hands. Kaya longs to help her, but the woman acts very strangely and seems to connect only with Kaya’s dog, Tatlo. When the woman disappears, Kaya sets out to find her.

Morality

Kaya and the rest of the village are wary of the stranger, but eager to help her. Kaya’s grandmother advises her to treat the woman “with compassion, no matter what”. Kaya feels a duty to comfort if not befriend the woman. She learns lessons in doing what she can even if the other person rejects it, not holding bitterness for something she doesn’t know/understand, and giving aid no matter what the circumstances may seem.

Spiritual Content

Kaya is a Nez Perce Indian and so follows the beliefs and traditions of her people. The village ends a period of mourning for Kaya’s mentor with a celebration of her spirit. Throughout most of the book, the village prepares for “Spirit Dances” during which the “wyakins” (“spirit guardians”) of the people would come near and be most powerful. Kaya longs for the day when she can go on her “vision quest” (which includes fasting and praying) to meet her wyakin. She prays to her mentor’s spirit several times and once to a “creator”, but not the True Creator as we know Him. An apparently “wise” wolf “communicates” with her merely by staring into her eyes. The “Stick People” (supposed little people who can either play tricks or help people) are believed in. One of the legends of “Coyote” is told. Possibly prophetic-like dreams come to a couple characters. A medicine woman attends to the stranger and a more powerful medicine man is said to come as well.

Violence

There is speculation that the stranger may have been banished from her village – which means she would have had done something terrible – or is an escaped slave. There is an account of a lightning fire that kills at least a man and some horses. Someone guesses that a woman may have been dragged off by a bear. The stranger has such terrifying dreams that she reacts violently to people trying to help her while she sleeps. A dog is killed by a cougar (described as “bloody”).

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

This story would be perfectly fine if it weren’t for the serious spiritual issues. There are valuable lessons to be learned and they are portrayed well. The mystery part doesn’t feel much like your typical mystery, as it is more a mystery of the mind and heart. However, the story involves questions regarding spirits and powers, so the Nez Perce worldview is weaved throughout.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 8-10

Review Rating:

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