I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1967)

by Margaret Craven

As I Heard the Owl Call My Name begins, Father Mark Brian is being sent by his bishop to minister to a remote Indian village in the Pacific Northwest not knowing that he has only about three years to live. There he will learn more about the meaning of life than many people learn in a lifetime.

The way of life of the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island shares the billing with the young vicar in this short book. It is threatened by white people in ways intentional (such as getting Indians drunk to rob them of their cultural treasures) and unintentional (such as taking Indian children into white residential schools). Craven’s accounts of customs, tribal stories, and myths, as well as of codes of interaction, document a
fading culture.

The tone of the book is not angry, however, but sadly accepting of the inevitability of change. The quiet example of the Kwakiutls helps Mark to acceptance when he finally hears 
the owl call his name.

Craven was 69 and a first-time novelist when she wrote I Heard the Owl Call My Name. She spent time in an Indian village to do research, and some of the events are based on what she observed there. I Heard the Owl Call My Name reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It is a good choice for both adults and older children.


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