Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book report: Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo

I've been thinking about adding regular book reviews to my blog highlighting some of the more memorable things that I'm reading or have read. Since I won't be cleaning again until Thursday or so (I do work some days), I thought I would start with a book that helped jump start all this cleaning in the B-house.

During my elementary school years, I became quite obsessed with all things Native American. I think this all happened when my mom started investigating our family tree and spoke of our Algonquin ancestors.

Needless to say, when it came time to do a book report on a biography, I chose Sacajawea (it may or may not have been this book. The cover looks familiar). While I was imagining myself crossing the Rocky Mountains with a Cabbage Patch kid strapped to my back, my mom was reading Anna Lee Waldo's masterpiece of a novel about this legendary woman. I just recently finished it for myself, and I find myself even more fascinated with this amazing woman.

The novel itself is huge; the paperback is 1359 pages. Ms. Waldo certainly did her research and includes transcriptions of primary source materials, speculations about Sacajawea's life, and plentiful source documents. I loved every word of this novel. The writing paints such a vivid picture of what Sacajawea's life may have been from her kidnapping early in life to her marriage to a French Canadian trapper to her travels with Lewis and Clark and so much more. This woman was inspiring and amazing if only because she did indeed travel across our country on foot with a baby strapped to her back. But her life included so much more than that life changing trip.

What struck me most while reading this book, though, was a continuing recurrence of Sacajawea's small pouch that she always kept close containing her most prized possessions. That's it: one small pouch. It contained a blue bead from her grandmother, a memorable feather, a medal, a bead from another time in her life, and a few other items. That's it. Granted, she had other possessions at various times in her life, but these were the things that she held most dear (at least according to the author). If Sacajawea, arguably one of the most important women in American history, only had need of these few small tokens to savor her momentous life, why in the world do I have an entire house filled with STUFF? Thus began the purge.

I think everyone should read this book. Yes, it took quite a bit of time, but it was time so well invested. I got so wrapped up in it, that I almost forgot to read the last book for the Ledger Book Club. Good thing The Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor (also a good read) was a quick read.

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