I don't usually mind dreary stories, but I had a hard time keeping track of which man fathered which children in this series. I'm a visual person; I should have kept a chart. But first, let's look at the plot.
"Myna" (also known as Crow-Girl) was orphaned at a young age and raised by her grandparents. Once both of them have passed on, she leaves the poor hut in which they lived and is soon taken in by a couple that mistreats her. Following the lead of the local crows she escapes and finds other people also in dire conditions: Doup, whose grief-stricken widower father Frid chases the two of them away; then Foula and her daughter Eidi who have left Foula's husband, the alcoholic, abusive Burd. The four set off to Myna's former home and on the way meet Rossan the shepherd, who takes them in. Although Foula would like to stay with Rossan, he appears to be a confirmed bachelor. Thus, the four continue their journey to "Crow Cove" and Myna's old hut. There they begin a life which they share with many others in need, despite their meager means, creating an atmosphere of acceptance and forgiveness. For this, the author should be commended.
The books in this series are written in a simple style appropriate for young readers. Unfortunately, the author's portrayal of marriage and family life may not be. Indeed, there is little normalcy in the adult relationships, which young readers may find disturbing. A brief explanation of some of the characters should clarify this:
Foula, the only adult female character, is attracted to every man she meets. Her daughter Eidi was conceived while Foula was living with Bandon, who promptly kicked her out when she had her baby. Foula then married Burd, but leaves him on account of his drinking problem. Eventually she "marries" the widower Frid and has another child with him. Throughout the books the reader has the impression that Foula is interested in all of the adult males in the story.
Bandon is a "Don Juan" who fathers not only Eidi, but also Tink. Bandon actually loved Tink's mother and since she died in childbirth, Bandon blames and abuses the boy.
Burd, despite his drinking problem, has a kind heart. He takes Foula in after Bandon dumps her, teaches Tink to fish, saves Tink from drowning and helps support the little Crow Cove community. Unfortunately in his drunken state he becomes physically and verbally violent and even has some crude comments to make about Foula's various liaisons. His feeling of rejection leads him to hang himself.
While I appreciate the author's attempt to promote a sense of community and inclusiveness in her series, I am not sure that the characters provide a healthy example for the intended audience. A more positive series for this age group would be Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.
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