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Monday, August 2, 2010

The Light In The Forest by Conrad Richter

Two incompatible ways of life symbolized by one young man

Some books stand the test of time, so do not. The Light in the Forest is 57 years old and still holds true, both historically and as a story.

Based in Pennsylvania during the years preceding the French and Indian War, the story revolves around True Son, a young man who had been kidnapped from his family by Lenni Lenape Indians at age four. True Son is adopted by an honorable, respected man named Cuyolga to replace a son who died from disease. Over time, True Son forgets his white parents and becomes a full Lenni Lenape.

However, a treaty is signed that requires that the white "captives" be returned to their white families. True Son is returned and the bulk of the book concerns itself with True Son's reactions to the white society he was forced to leave more than a decade earlier. Eventually, True Son escapes back to his adopted family and settles back into his comfortable way of life.

Conrad Richter
Up until the last few pages, the reader is left with the impression that the conflict between the settlers and the Indians was primarily a war of brutality on the part of the settlers, but True Son discovers, to his horror, that warriors from his own family group massacred a family and even scalped the children - an accusation that he angrily denied when settlers threw it in his face while he was forced to live with them.

Richter leaves the reader with an unconventional ending, but one that feels right, nonetheless.

Makes a great companion to longer, more detailed (but less conflicted) books by James Alexander Thom such as Follow the River and The Red Heart.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on March 9, 2010.

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