May 1, 2009 Kc Kopaska, Native American Ministries of the Assemblies of God
I was initially hesitant to review Once Upon A River because novels are not a literary genre that I am accustomed to reading. The fact that I was asked, however, was an honor that I was not willing to take lightly. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this fictional account of Adelle Chaboillier's journey from the shores of the Riviere aux Raisias to her final home along the Okswego River...
Dee Farrell's narrative is based on true accounts of the French/Indian wars of the early seventeen hundreds that occurred in the greater area of modern day Detroit, Michigan. Her references to the Wendat (Huron) and other tribal groups of this historical/cultural milieu are accurate. This is, for the most part, why Once Upon A River made for enjoyable, not to mention interesting reading for me. Farrel's book provides an excellent portrait of early Native American culture and its interaction with settlers during the last few decades of French colonization of the Eastern U.S.
I also enjoyed her work because the evangelical bent of the story line was not overdone or fluffed up. In other words, characters such as Adelle and Reynard DuPree, though Christians, at least by the end of the book, were portrayed as fallible humans with many faults. The Jesuits in the story, without being criticized for their religiosity, were also portrayed in a realistic manner.
As far as criticism of Farrel's book is concerned, the only thing I would mention is that at times the Indian language and interpretation were overused. That is they slowed down the natural flow of the story line. On the other hand, I am sure there are readers that will be fascinated by exposure to the representative dialects. I do understand the author's reason for the oft insertion of this vocabulary, and that is to draw attention to the continued loss of Native languages... Many tribal languages across the U.S. are becoming extint. For some it is a finished process.
In conclusion, I recommend this book not only to those that enjoy Christian novels, but to those interested in early American settlement and Indian culture. Once Upon a River has value as entertainment, evangelism, and historical research.