Author: LeAnne Howe
Tribe of author and/or tribe featured in book: Choctaw
Favorite quote: “Thoughts, Voices, and Grandparents plant corn on top of the sacred mound and hundreds of years come into view in the dance of Green Corn and tomorrows.” (pg 159)
Summary: “If you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.” That’s basically the theme of Shell Shaker. The [fictional] novel goes back and forth in time between 1991 and the 1730’s and 40’s. In the 1730’s, a young woman named Anoleta is wrongfully accused of murdering her husband’s other wife. Her husband’s name was Red Shoes, a man who at first everyone love him, but as his hunger for power grew so did the everyone’s hatred for him and they sought to kill him. Shakbatina, Anoleta’s mother, takes her daughter’s place and is killed instead of her daughter.
In 1991 Auda Billy, a decendant of Shakbatina, was wrongfully accused of killing Redford “Red” McAlester, the chief of the Choctaw Nation. Like Shakbatina, Auda’s mother Susan claimed that she was the one who killed Red. After having encounters with spirits, Auda’s two sisters—Tema and Adair—and several other relatives return home to help Auda and Susan out. The family believed that Red Shoes’ spirit haunted the whole town and that the only way for things to get better was to bury McAlester and many material things in Mississippi.
Analysis: I apologize if my summary was confusing. The book is not as confusing as my summary was, but as I said above, the novel goes back and forth and it consists of two parallel plots that are eerily similar.
I think the book was interesting and entertaining. In the book Auda is the oldest daughter of the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. I found that amusing because I am the only daughter of the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter. However, I digress.
I think that the characters were well-developed and they seemed realistic. In fact the people were much like many families—there might be hatred within the family, but along with that hatred comes with fierce loyalty and if anyone outside of the family accuses one inside the family, the whole family will come together and defend that one.
Native Americans are often portrayed as mystic people and this book is no exception. LeAnne Howe paints the Billy family as those who are in touch with the spirits and the spirits often talk to them. In fact, it almost seems as if the current members of the Billy family are not only the descendants of the ones in the 1700’s, but actually are the people back in the 1700’s who were given a second chance to right the wrongs in the past. Though I enjoyed this parallelism—and possible reincarnation—I’ve seen many movies and books that do the same thing that I feel as if this is overdone. But don’t take my word for it. I really think that you should read this book for yourself and find out about the Billy family and how they right the wrongs of their ancestors.