Chris's Reviews > I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
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's review
Jun 05, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: historical, life, not-graphic, adult, ya

In his tiny house the teacher heard the running footfalls on the path to the river bank, and he went quickly to the door and could not open it. To join the others was to care, and to care was to live and to suffer.


The cliched (though, I believe, still apt) advice to "show, don't tell" is usually given to writers. Sometimes, though, it or something similar is given as life advice (for instance; and, "actions speak louder than words"). And then, in rare instances, the advice itself isn't told but shown. It is lived, never spoken. Embodied. Usually by someone(s) of few words.


They stood under the cedar in the rain until daybreak. Both knew there was friendship between them now, forged without words and needing none.


This book from the late 1960s describes an entire people of few words who speak volumes with their reserved, measured actions, the Native Indians of the Pacific Northwest. It is the story of a young Anglican vicar sent to live in a remote village and tend to a small region, of how he learns to listen to their silent "speech" and comes to understand the world as they do, through caring and living and suffering with them. He also sees--as they do--the inevitable changes being brought by his culture, how their way of life (and understanding) is endangered.

The book very much presents a particular place and time, yet it also preserves the wisdom of a particular people while sharing insight into all places, times, and peoples.

A quick, quiet, and engaging read that says more than it says.


He relied on Jim as he had never relied on anyone, yet their friendship was forged in the long hours on the boat in which neither spoke an unnecessary word. And always there was the trip in the little open boat up the cold river, and the vicarage waiting with the warm food on the back of the stove that Marta had placed there, the clothes Keetah had washed and ironed, the wood old Peter had cut and stacked, the piece of fish or game set aside from each and every hunt. And there were the Indians who dropped by in the evening to offer help or ask it, and the children who entered without knocking to stand, motionless, watching him from their big, soft eyes, smiling shyly.
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