A sweet, insightful, riveting adventure tale

Last modified: 9/14/2015 1:15:10 PM

Special to the Recorder

“Will Poole’s Island by Tim Weed (Namelos Editions; 184 pages; $18.95 in hardcover, $9.95 in paperback)

Each November, we remember a brief time in 1621 when English settlers and Native Americans gathered to celebrate the harvest together, pooling their gifts and their thanks.

That harvest celebration is worth celebrating. Nevertheless, for much of the time before and after it, the two groups were at odd — over their views of the land they shared and over their views of the cosmos.

“Will Poole’s Island” is a novel that explores that clash between ways of looking at the world. Its eponymous hero is a teenager so the book is marketed to middle- and high-school readers in particular. Nevertheless, it is a story that will intrigue and touch adult readers as well.

Will is 16 in 1643. He lives in a fictional settlement called New Meadow Plantation in what is now Connecticut.

Like much of New England, this fortified village is run by Puritan elders who believe that their God gave them the land around them to use and improve — and that people who do not share their beliefs are dangerous.

An orphan, Will lives under the care of a guardian who doesn’t understand the boy’s desire to spend time in nature rather than in church. Will’s guardian and the leaders of New Meadow become alarmed when they realize that Will has been spending time in the woods with an Indian named Squamiset.

Squamiset is a seer with mystical powers that allow him to change shape and to see the future. Soon Will realizes that he may share some of Squamiset’s powers, powers that challenge the theology and social structure of his English neighbors.

Squamiset helps Will escape from New Meadow. The two head northeast and eventually end up on an island that author Tim Weed suggests was modeled on Nantucket. On the island, Will learns to use his powers. He also learns that those powers cannot stave off “civilization” forever.

Weed writes colorfully and with feeling, drawing readers into Will’s and Squamiset’s lives and making his characters believable and human.

Even the Puritans who persecute Will and Squamiset are treated with some degree of understanding even if their rigidity is difficult to condone. The author notes in an afterword that he is descended from both early settlers and Native Americans himself, which may account for his ability to depict both world views.

“Will Poole’s Island” does several things and does them well. It is a sweet coming-of-age story, a riveting adventure tale, an insightful analysis of a difficult time in American history and an eloquent plea for understanding among all peoples.

World Eye Bookshop reading Nov. 22

Tim Weed will read from “Will Poole’s Island” and sign copies of the book on Saturday, Nov. 22, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.


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