In 1919, when young Jeaantaa's betrothed dies in a hunt on the Bering Sea, she is pressured into an unwanted marriage to Tariem, his older brother. Ten years later as Stalin's Red Army advances to their village on the Bering seacoast, Jeaantaa is forced to make a decision about their dogs, called guardians. Her actions put her at odds with both her husband and the ancient ways of the Chukchi. Thwarting their family's plan to escape into reindeer country, she vanishes after a meeting with Robert Ramsay, a young man from Nome, Alaska. Her disappearance leaves Tariem haunted for a lifetime as to her fate and the whereabouts of dozens of their young dogs. Later in 1994 after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Tariem returns with other villagers to reclaim their ancestral lands and culture after the decades long ravages of Soviet domination.
In 1992, eighteen year old Rosalie McKenzie is her own worst enemy as she's at odds with the world. Stuck in a destructive marriage along with a string of dead-end jobs, she breaks ranks to save Smokey, an abused husky at great consequence to her own well-being. As Rosalie gains a passion for this elegant animal, she unwittingly ventures along a path of self discovery. Hired as a dog handler by Jan and Dave, who own a local sled dog racing kennel, she finds herself center stage in the world of competitive dog sledding. It's there she meets Charlie Gokee, a veterinarian and retired Alaskan dog musher who sees in Rosalie all the spirit, strength and potential she fails to recognize in herself. Rosalie shines as she comes into her own. And it's through a series of mysterious events or remembrances that Rosalie embodies the spirit of Jeaantaa as a contemporary Keeper of the Guardians. Through Charlie, she meets legendary musher Robert Ramsay who opens doors to the many puzzling dreams and intuitions that served as the initial impetus for saving Smokey.
Readers of Echo are treated to vivid locations and highly charged emotional themes that reveal little known historical and political events spanning sixty years. As the narratives weave together they meet towards the end in a dramatic present time conclusion where an ancient breed of canines, huskies that have thrived in the homes and hearts of northern peoples, help to guide the way home.
When I started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I would keep with it, to be honest. If a book doesn't grab me right away, I don't stay with it.
But I'm glad I did with this one because I ended up enjoying it.
I wasn't crazy about the writing style in the first couple of chapters. This is the author's debut novel and it was like she was trying too hard. There seemed to be a lot of comparisons which I found a bit annoying. Here are some examples:
- Her bangs quivering like butterflies
- The dream chased her like a ratty little dog
- He vanished like mist on Superior after the sun burns through
Plus I found Rosalie annoying in the beginning. She was young, married to an abuser, not able to focus and drifting from job to job (though she did have a knack for beading). Even when she was offered a job working as a handler of sled dogs, she waffled about it. Once she accepted the job and started to find herself, I found her likeable.
The chapters alternate from different time periods in Siberia and Wisconsin (they are clearly indicated at the beginning). The Siberians are a very spiritual people. Conflicting with their way of life is the emergence of Stalin's Red Army. Jeaantaa chooses to not go along with it and takes off in order to save her beloved dogs. Her husband, Tariem, is haunted for the next sixty years, thinking she ran off with Robert Ramsey.
After Rosalie saves Smokey, an abused husky guard dog of a junkyard, and moves back in with her dad, her life settles down and discovers her calling. Working for Jan and Dave, she gets involved with sled dogs and eventually builds her own team.
Gord and I have gone dogsledding so I was able to relate to what was going on. It's exhilarating! Here we are:
So though it took me a couple chapters to get into this book, I'm glad I kept with it and I'd recommend it, especially if you are into dogs. There is some mature language.
I participated in a blog book tour and received a copy of this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review. Here are the tour host participants:
- My Book Addiction and More
- Tidbits, Kidbits, & Kibble
- From Left to Write
- Style Substance Soul
- Tribune Books
- In the Hammock
- Teena in Toronto
- Mrs. Mommy Booknerd's
- Gothic Mom's Book Reviews
- So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
- Sci Fi Chick
- Poisoned Pin
- Bibliophilic Book Blog
- Roundtable Reviews
- Beth's Book Reviews
- The Random Thoughts of Crazy Mandy
- Pick of the Literate
- Layers of Thought
- Conversations Live
- Reading Lark
- Over Coffee
- Open Book with Diana Page Jordan