|The cover of the book I had|
The book imagines the story of the experiences of a woman, named Karana in the book but Juana Maria in the historical record, who was actually left behind on an island off the coast of Los Angeles in the mid-19th century when her tribe went away. Yes, the bones of the tale are real--she lived on the island alone for 18 years (no one came for her and the boat of her people went down with all aboard)--archaeologists think they've even found her cave! She was eventually brought to shore, where she couldn't communicate because no one spoke her language anymore, and she died just a few weeks after her "rescue" of dysentery. Her cormorant skirt was sent to the Vatican and some of her other belongings were sent to a museum.
But the book deals with the time on the island, from the original events that led to her people leaving, to her jumping in the water to go back for her mischievous little brother, her brother's death by the pack of wild dogs, and her skills at making weapons, shelters, food, and friends of some of the animal inhabitants. Karana survives visitors, a tsunami, serious injury, a leaky canoe during an attempted escape. As we discussed tonight, she was resilient, resourceful, strong, brave. She secured food, shelter, weapons, clothing . . . but also needed companionship (Rontu, Rontu-aru, the otter, the birds, and the visiting fox; it was because she was lonely that she finally left the island) and even beauty (the cormorant skirt, the necklace and earrings she made to match, even the abalone wind-chime type things.)
We also talked about what we would take if we were stranded on an island. Sis said iodine to purify the water (I thought she was really clever to think of this.) I wanted a pot with a lid and a tarp. Many of us wanted knives and matches in a waterproof box. Some wanted blankets or a first aid kit. A few said "log cabin" or "refrigerator," laughing at missing the point. I also mentioned wanting a book but couldn't quite decide--the collected works of Shakespeare are long and complex, but then I'd want a good dictionary to go with it! But there were very few non-necessities (even the most religious among us wasn't going to take a Bible or the Book of Mormon.) I'm not sure most of us would last very long, any longer than Karana laster when she got to the mainland.
As we discussed the book, we all worked on our own little woven Jute basket, just as Karana made baskets in the book. Ours had a plastic frame that we wove strands of twine through, adding colorful beads. Each mother and daughter made different patterns and color choices; some drew them tight to change the shape and one even made the twine pass across the opening to section off areas for different pencils! It took us awhile to settle into talking while we wove, but eventually it was one great "basket bee."
We also ate two loaves of banana bread, a ton of popcorn, some Red Zinger punch (this time with gingerale) and then the kids ended the evening playing with the cats and then having lightsaber battles outside. All in all, a very successful book club meeting.