Feb 20, 2016

Strong for Potatoes

by Cynthia Thayer

I read this book through to the end just because I was curious how it all turned out, but in spite of the strong themes it left me kind of unmoved. It's about a young woman growing up on the edge of a reservation in Maine, her troubled family and her part-native heritage, Passamaquoddy. I think the reason this book didn't really move me was because it had so many things going on. The girl's life is a constant struggle- her mixed heritage makes her an outcast at school, an accident when she was very young left her disabled, her parents are estranged and she witnesses a secret incident that reveals everything. She spends a lot of time with her grandfather who teachers her some woodscraft, how to track deer, and sets her up to learn traditional basketmaking from a tribal member; she gets good enough at this to find her own artistic style and some income. But mostly, really, the story is about her confused unfolding awareness of sexulity, how her best childhood friend falls in love with her but she finds she really loves someone else. It's about teen pregnancy and divided family secrets, and old buried pain. And facing death. All of which would make a good story, if they were presented with any depth. I felt like the book should have been twice as long... I wish I had felt more for the main character, she really went through a lot and finally discovered her own strengths and found out how to love, but I just wasn't given enough to know and care about her. The story moves quickly through her teen years, starting college and into young adulthood- too quickly, too brief. Others have really liked it, though. Just not me. I would have liked to read more about the native customs. So many things were barely touched on.

Rating: 2/5       248 pages, 1998

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