To get the full picture of Under a Blackberry Moon, it helps to read The Measure of Katie Calloway first, which describes how Moon Song and Isaac Ross, commonly called Skypilot for his former profession of preacher, meet in a lumber camp, though Miller summarizes it fairly well in Blackberry. This novel picks up immediately where Katie Calloway leaves off, three years before the related A Promise to Love begins.
Lumberjack Skypilot is escorting Chippewa woman Moon Song and her infant son from the thumb of Michigan to her people on the western end of the Upper Peninsula. Traveling by steamboat is the quickest way, by route of the great lakes, but not exactly the safest. When the ship wrecks, they are left to traverse the rest of the way by foot through dangerous wilderness. Though they grow closer on the journey, they discover their cultures are an obstacle not easily overcome on the path to love.
As with her other novels, Miller has put in a lot of research. She does not skimp on how poorly Indians were treated: in general attitudes, in marriages, in the degradations by the government, in stealing their children to "educate" them. It was a horrible time for them, when the life they'd known for so long was taken away, setting a course that affects them to this day. In addition, she discusses the difficulties missionaries faced, since by then the Indians had received too many conflicting versions of Christianity from white men who professed Christ yet so often failed to agree with each other or show His love.
The book seems so simple straightforward when one reads the description - two people off on a long trip surviving adversity together, of course they fall in love! But it isn't simple; sure, they might be in love, but surviving all the shipwrecks and wolf attacks in the world together will not prepare one to give up everything one has known to live in another culture. Crossing that divide is no easy feat, as evinced by the multiple failures Moon Song has observed in her short lifetime. Miller has thoroughly thought through this aspect of the story and given it the emphasis it deserves. Culture gap is a huge issue that cannot be overcome simply by ooey-gooey romantic love - it takes serious work.
Once again, Serena Miller has written an excellent historical novel. The characters are flawed, but they grow significantly without ever bordering on unlikeable. I loved Skypilot, who makes an excellent hero; his devotion reminds me of Jacob laboring for Rachel. However, Moon Song's spiritual welfare is a priority for him, and no matter how much he wants to, he refuses to be unequally yoked in marriage. This book is a beautiful journey, full of adventure and determination. 5 out of 5 stars!
In her village, each child was given a unique name by the village elders. There were no other Moon Songs. It was her name and hers alone.
The moon had been full the night she was born in her mother's tent. The elders heard her grandmother, Fallen Arrow, singing a soothing song to her new little granddaughter minutes after her birth, and that had been the root of her lovely name.
She was Moon Song, and she came from the wise Chippewa. Her grandfather had once been a great warrior and chief.
--Under a Blackberry Moon, 9
One Moon Song. After a ruckus on the boardwalk, she is leaving Bay City to return to her people, far north at Lake Superior. Without the law to protect her from rummaging drunks, she cannot stay. It is not safe for her to walk to get beads for her beadwork for her young son's moccasins ~ her Ayasha ~ "Little One." An elder in her tribe would choose his permanent name.
Isaac Ross ~ known as Skypilot, the name given him by his logging friends ~ their nickname for anyone who had ever been a preacher ~ knew Moon Song better than the others as she had taken care of him at the camp after his accident while rescuing a child.
Skypilot accompanies Moon Song and her young son to reach their village. Almost to her homeland, an explosion disrupts their plans and their direction. I struggled with them as they crossed the waters along the magnificent cliffs. Moon Song's skills keep them alive. Skypilot's quick actions keep them safe.
This is a fantastic book. So well plotted, history comes alive in this story. I found it interesting of the naming of the moons for the activities or happenings during each of the full moons, i.e. rice moon, berry moon, to keep track of the passing year. I enjoyed the story of Skypilot's wanting to learn her language and Chippewa ways, and appreciated Moon Song's dedication to her grandmother. Because of this honor, choices were made that benefited all of them. Trust and respect were values that carried them to freedom.
Serena B. Miller is the RITA Award-winning author of The Measure of Katie Calloway and A Promise to Love, as well as numerous articles for periodicals such as Woman's World, Guideposts, Reader's Digest, Focus on the Family, Christian Woman, and more. She lives on a farm in southern Ohio. Please visit serenabmiller.com for more.
***Thank you to Revell Blog Tour Network for sending me a review copy of Serena B. Miller's Under a Blackberry Moon. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***
Under a Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller is described as a sequel to her earlier novel, The Measure of Katie Calloway, yet it works perfectly as a stand-alone.
Serena is a new author to me and I must say that I loved her writing. With nicely-flowing prose and rich historical detail, Serena weaves a fascinating story with memorable characters and a compelling Native American theme.
Moon Song, "daughter of the lake country," and Skypilot, a former preacher in Virginia, are well-developed lead characters that I grew to love more with each page turn. Isabella and Jesuit priest Father Slovic are strong secondary characters who add much richness to the narrative.
Under a Blackberry Moon opens in the rugged lumber town of Bay City, Michigan in 1868. It's not long, however, before a tragic accident strands Moon Song, Skypilot and Isabella in the Upper Peninsula wilderness, where we see Moon Song's strength, courage, and natural survival skills. Skypilot reflects that . . . "In Bay City, she had seemed awkward and out of place . . . Watching her here was like watching a graceful doe melt into the shadows of the forest." This is a novel where the picturesque Upper Peninsula practically becomes a major character.
The Native American theme captivated me as Serena skillfully brought in not only the mistreatment they often received, but so much interesting detail about their way of life and religious beliefs. For instance, months of the year were given descriptive "moon" names - like "Blackberry Moon" for the month when blackberries ripen, "Falling Leaves Moon" for when the leaves fall, "Freezing Moon" for when the snows come, etc. And the women did what we would think of as a man's work, for . . . "A warrior would fight to defend his woman, but he would not lighten her load. That was the way it had always been."
One of my favorite parts in the book is a conversation between Skypilot and Father Slovic. Forced out of the ministry before the Civil War for publicly taking a stand against slavery, Skypilot had continued ministering to people in need. Father Slovic wisely tells him, "You never left the ministry at all. . . . You simply carried it with you. Living a life of service to others is the most powerful sermon of all."
The growing love between Moon Song and Skypilot is beautiful to watch, as it seems their differences might be insurmountable at first. "There was no way Skypilot could fit into her tribe, and she had already failed to fit into his." While the ending might turn out as one expects, how we get there is surprisingly creative and moving.
I thoroughly enjoyed Under a Blackberry Moon and will be reading more of Serena's novels. I highly recommend this story to all readers.
This book was provided by Lanette Haskins and Revell in exchange for my honest review.
Serena Miller has titled her new book Under a Blackberry Moon, and has succeeded in writing a story that is both fun to read and educational. I was interested to read her descriptions of the lifestyle of the Indians and pioneers of the 1860's in Michigan and the problems they faced.
Even though this was book two of the series, I never felt like I should have read book one first. However, I will read it as soon as I can get it; Under a Blackberry Moon was that good!
The story is written around Moon Song, a beautiful Indian girl with a very young baby boy; and Skypilot, a young man from the South. Moon Song and "Skypilot" are traveling on a steamboat to take Moon Song back to her people after the death of her husband, when the boat they are sailing in blows up. They - along with a white lady, Isabella - are the only survivors. However, in order to save themselves, they must make their way many miles back to civilization. How are two white people who have never lived "off the land" going to survive? Only with the help of a native Indian girl who has spent most of her life learning the skills that will mean their survival.
Ms. Miller describes the plight of the Indian tribes of this area as they were tricked into selling their land, and thus their means of survival, to the white man to occupy and mine for copper.
This is a book well worth reading and keeping for both the story and the historical information it contains. Ms. Miller has done a superior job accurately portraying the problems that both the white and Indian people faced. Her research and attention to details of life for these diverse groups of people living more than a century and a half ago not only make the story more interesting, but also educational. The unusual title Under a Blackberry Moon, will help you remember this book by Serena Miller.