HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Winona’s Web: A Novel of Discovery
Author: Priscilla Cogan
Cover Illustrator: David Tamura
Publisher: Two Canoes Press, republished in 2010
Related website: www.bdd.com (publisher)
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Adults only
Rating: 0 stars (NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Cogan, Priscilla. Winona’s Web: A Novel of Discovery (published in 1996 by Face to Face Books; republished in 1997 by Main Street Books, an imprint of Doubleday, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). Dr. Meggie O’Connor is an almost forty-year-old, recently divorced, feminist psychologist who quits a thriving New York City practice and retreats to Chrysalis, her late grandmother’s estate on the rural, scenic Leelanau Peninsula along Lake Michigan, where she spent many happy summer vacations as a child. It is near the village of Suttons Bay, and she joins the small town practice of her friend Dr. Beverly Patterson. One of her first clients is Winona Pathfinder, a feisty 69-year-old Lakota medicine woman who has jolted her family with the declaration that she is going to die in two months, although she is neither sick nor suicidal. While Meggie struggles to use all her professional skills to keep Winona alive, Winona begins to introduce Meggie to Native American ways.
Meanwhile, Meggie meets Winona’s nephew Hawk and another Native American man named Slade, who is recommended to replace the retired farmer, Olf Nielson who had been hired by her parents to look after Chrysalis, when Olf becomes ill. Meggie begins to find both men very attractive. She must also deal with visits by her parents and her ex-husband and Bev’s disastrous relationship with a male friend named Colton. What will happen to Winona? And will Meggie find romance with either Hawk or Slade? This book is a well-told tale, but be forewarned that it comes from a basically pagan, i.e., Native American, worldview. I would normally have no interest in anything like this, but I found it in my father’s library after his death, and since it was a novel with an interesting-sounding premise, I decided to read it. However, I must first tell you about my father. He became a Christian as a young man, but when we moved from the little country congregation where we had attended to the slightly larger congregation in town, there was something that he didn’t like about it and quit going. Eventually, he became interested in “alternative forms of spirituality.” One would not consider him “New Age,” and he was definitely not a Wiccan, but he was what I would call a “neo-pantheist.” So I was not surprised to find a book like this among his effects.
Author Priscilla Cogan is a psychologist of Irish-American descent who has a background in Native American ceremonies with her Cherokee husband. The story is definitely “multi-cultural” and even implies that the old Native American ways are superior to the modern white man’s ways. Meggie eventually learns to “pray” to the four Indian Grandfathers and the Indian Grandmother (the earth). Winona likes Christmas but resents the Christian message that people must forsake their pagan ways. When she asked the Spirits who Jesus was, they reportedly told her that He was “a son of God” who “was sent to the white man.” Of course, the Native American ritual of smoking tobacco is mentioned frequently, gambling is practiced at the casino on the local reservation, and there are numerous occasions of drinking alcohol. The story has a definite sexual side with references to rape, masturbation, and homosexuality. And the language is really bad, with quite a bit of profanity, a lot of cursing (mainly the “d” and “h” words), even a small but significant amount of vulgarity (a few instances of the “s” word and even one use of the “f” word), and a number of other risqué comments. Someone who is really into modern stories that include Native American mysticism and doesn’t mind all the naughty parts might like this book, which won the Small Press Book Award and the Body Mind Spirit Magazine Award of Excellence, but personally I can’t conscientiously recommend it to anyone. It is the first of the “Winona Trilogy.” The second is Compass of the Heart, and the third is Crack at Dusk Crook of Dawn.