Lynching of Louie Sam
by Stewart, Elizabeth

After Native American Louie Sam is suspected of killing someone, he is chased into Canada and lynched, but teenager George Gillies, a newcomer to Washington Territory, doesn't think Louie was guilty and sets out to investigate.

Elizabeth Stewart's writing credits for film, television, and the Internet include the TV movieLuna: Spirit of the Whale (2007) and the series Falcon Beach, Edgemont, andThe Adventures of Shirley Holmes. This is her first novel. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Told from a teen's fictionalized viewpoint, this historical novel is based on a shocking true event. In 1884, two young boys from the Washington Territory followed a lynch mob, including their fathers, that hung an Indian boy, Louis Sam, 15, who was wrongfully accused of murdering a white settler, James Bill, and setting his cabin on fire. Teenage George's immediate, present-tense narrative reveals the secrets and lies, the settlers' daily struggles, and their fierce racism about the "wild heathens" who speak "gibberish" and could rise up to steal back the land. The personal profiles of the small frontier town's inhabitants are sometimes hard to keep straight, but they do show the various settlers' viewpoints, including the savage self-righteousness in the name of "civilized justice." Readers will also be held by the mystery right up until the end: who did murder James Bill? Why? A final note fills in historical facts. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

The title tells readers most of what they need to know. In 1884, in Washington territory, very close to the Canadian border, a white man of questionable character was found murdered. A 14-year-old Native American boy named Louie Sam was framed for the crime, tracked down by a group of over 100 vigilantes and hanged-by happenstance, on the Canadian side of the line. Louie Sam's death remains the only lynching on Canadian soil. Stewart takes all the history she can find and works to craft a novel from it, but she's only partially successful. Her narrative character, a 15-year-old white boy named George Gillies, is a real-life person known to have witnessed Louie Sam's death. Her writing is clean and fluid and her attention to historical detail admirable. However, this story, constrained by history, does not follow a narrative arc, and Louie Sam cannot emerge as a character, in part because the author hesitates to express the feelings of the Native Americans. George seems to accept automatically the party line that Louie Sam must be a criminal. His very gradual conversion to Louie Sam's probable innocence isn't emotionally moving and has no effect on the story, which, because it follows historical truth, ends without any satisfying resolution. No doubt it's historically accurate, and it is certainly honestly told; however, it doesn't quite succeed as fiction. (Historical fiction. 11-15) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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