Thursday, April 27, 2017

William Kent Krueger’s Iron Lake is a violent, powerfully written novel with a Native American religious subtheme.

Anishinaabe legend says that when the Windigo calls your name, you are bound to die.

Disgraced Aurora, Minnesota, former sheriff Cork O'Connor investigates the apparent suicide of a corrupt local judge. The judge was a powerful figure. His son has been elected to the U.S. Senate. O’Conner believes someone murdered the judge.

At the same time, O’Connor looks for a teenager who has disappeared. The former sheriff believes his disappearance ties in to the judge’s murder.

And all of this happens as O’Conner tries to put his shattered family back together. He struggles with his love for a woman other than his wife.

These details only hint at the power and tragedy in the story. But for me, one of the major interests was in the Anishinabee legends themselves. Cork, who is half Irish and half Anishinaabe has two Native American mentors. One is Sam Winter Moon with whom he hunted “the big bear.”

Sam Winter Moon and the big bear changed the fourteen-year-old hunter’s life.

Cork’s other mentor is Henry Meloux.

Meloux tells Cork about the Windigo, “... you got to be careful, because even if you kill the Windigo, you’re still in danger.” And when Cork asks, “What danger?” Henry replies, “Of staying a Windigo forever. Of being the ogre you killed.”

The Windigo calls several other names including Cork’s.

As each of those people dies or is murdered, the question remains if Cork will be next. But Cork’s destruction is not physical. It is much more terrible than that.

So this book does more than keep you reading. It reminds you that often in life, we cannot separate the terrible and the beautiful.

Iron Lake is the well known first novel in what is now an extensive series. I hardly need to write about it for you to have heard of it. I am glad I ran across a mention of it in Friday’s Forgotten Books, and I’m glad I read Iron Lake

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