Death in l'Acadie

A Kesk8a Story

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
212 Pages
Reviewed on 09/23/2016
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Death in l'Acadie: A Kesk8a Story by Sherrill Wark is a fascinating historical fiction novel set in 17th century Acadia, the present Port Royal in eastern Canada. It is a very unusual coming of age story told from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old Mi’gmaw girl, Kesk8a. During this time, the French established themselves in Acadia, home of Indian tribes like the Mi’gmaw, and as expected, drastic changes come to the community. Her account is at times funny, at times tragic. Kesk8a playfully resists the Christian name that the priest has given her, and develops a friendship with the colourful Frenchman, newcomer Claude Guidry. And as she grows into a woman, she learns that for her to survive, resiliency is the name of the game.

Death in l'Acadie: A Kesk8a Story is as fascinating as it is highly informative. Author Sherrill Wark brings to life a young Mi’gmaw girl who lives during a challenging time in Canadian history. What makes the story more effective is that it is told from the tender point of view of Kesk8a’s heart and eyes. Starting with her childish antics, the narrative shifts to the more serious business of growing up in the midst of the upheaval that her tribe is subjected to. Wark also comes up with a number of interesting characters that provide more depth to Kesk8a’s story. And the result is a historical fiction novel that will make the reader interested in learning history. Indeed, if history is taught to us by stories like Death in l'Acadie, we will get to learn our history lessons more intimately.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Sherrill Wark's Death in l’Acadie: A Kesk8a Story is a tale told by a storyteller. Keskoua is a young woman coming of age among her people, the Mi’gmaw tribe. She is to become a storyteller, one designated to share their ways with others. Keskoua is a bit feisty, and a bit outspoken in her youth. She often is corrected by her elders, but even more so by the local priest. Keskoua is skeptical of the young priest and teases him often. However, her young friend, Feather, has converted, and warns Keskoua about her actions. The young priest does his best to put the fear of God into the locals, but not all are swayed by his influence. Many believe Father Sousy is “bad medicine.” Keskoua gets an unforgettable, personal taste of how bad his medicine is, and it changes her life forever.

Sherrill Wark, being a descendant of one of her characters, reveals a bit of her heritage in Death in l’Acadie: A Kesk8a Story. Wark tells her story through the eyes of a young native storyteller. This was a time before stories were written; stories were carried in their heads, passed down from generation to generation. The art of storytelling and its importance is the core theme of the story. If you enjoy Native American historical fiction, you will appreciate the fictional eye witness account of its narrator.

Wark authenticates her story by including both native Mi’gmaw and French languages in the dialogues. Furthermore, her descriptions take you into the wilderness, revealing the rawness of nature and Native American culture. Wark paints a vivid picture of the changes that occurred among the natives as the white man came and infiltrated their land. She also exposes the proselytizing of the Catholic Church, and its effect on the local aborigines. However, not all is lost, for the young storyteller, the heroine of the tale, hears, sees and remembers. She tells the story with unbridled passion and without prejudice. And this is just the beginning of her story.

Benjamin Ookami

Sherrill Wark takes readers to a French colony in the late 1600s in her novel Death in l'Acadie: A Kesk8a Story. Keskoua, spelled Kesk8a by "the Fathers", is a native of Acadia. She likes stories, but what she likes even more is the art of telling them. First, she tells the story of a Frenchman who had to flee his country after the husband of the woman he had an affair with returned home one day after everyone thought that he was dead. Second, she tells the story of a "bad thing" happening to a woman in Acadia and how she came to be saved by a coward. Her own story, just as interesting, involves a sinful act by a man that no one would suspect and the mystery surrounding his death.

The author's work with the natives of Acadia is what stood out for me the most. While change is happening in Keskoua's world because of the presence of the French, as well as religious teachings from a local priest, readers are still introduced to the traditions of her people. Keskoua is both the narrator and protagonist of this novel. What she knows is what she has learned from many people that she has encountered, and she always explains how she knows something that readers might think she's not supposed to. While something awful being done to Keskoua will get readers to turn the pages in the hopes of finding out what happens next, a silent character looms in the background, ever so present yet not at the same time. I was hooked. This was a wonderful and incredibly well-structured read.

Rabia Tanveer

Death in l'Acadie: A Kesk8a Story by Sherrill Wark is the story of a woman who is determined to remain true to herself, no matter what happens. When our story begins, Kesk8a is only thirteen years old. She is a child who should be overwhelmed by what is going on around her, but she is strong and very resilient. She is a Mi'gwaw girl, living in what is now present day Canada. The New World is invading their homes, bringing their knowledge and their customs. And her people are changing, her land is changing. Sometimes it feels like only Kesk8a is resisting the change. When these two rich but different cultures collide, the aftermath means this girl grows up in a time and place that are violent, disheveled and very disconcerting. By 15 years of age, Kesk8a is a woman. And she believes that if she holds on to her beliefs and her people, things will get better. This is the story of a young woman’s journey from adolescence to adulthood in a short span of time.

This was a deep and very engaging novel. Right from the beginning, you can feel and watch Kesk8a grow in front of your eyes; she went from a small inquisitive child to a young woman who watched her people interact with French soldiers and trappers. Her quest of saving the souls of her people was beautifully tragic. You can feel her distress and her desire to help her people. Her journey was pure and very dramatic. The writer very skillfully described the Mi'gwaw customs and traditions, and I can only imagine the amount of research it must have taken to reach this level of quality. She did a great job. A heartfelt and real read.

Stephen Fisher

Death in l'Acadie: A Kesk8a Story by Sherrill Wark is a cleverly written tale that takes place during the French colonization of the new world in the late 1600s before the revolutionary war. The story is being told by Keskoua; a young Native American girl who wants to become a story teller. She describes what life is like in her village. She gives an account of many of her fellow tribesmen and women, including her elders, each with their own stories and backgrounds. Keskoua begins by relating how she flirts with the French preacher while hanging out with her friend, Feather, or as she prefers, Helene. The girls are young teenagers learning and joking about sin as they grow into womanhood. With the French influence coming into their lives, she relates how interaction develops between the two peoples. The results are a mixture of terms in both cultures as the language barrier slowly dissipates. The story takes a turn for Marie Therese, aka Keskoua, when a tragedy uncovers a secret about Father Soucy.

Sherrill Wark does a magnificent job of describing life in an Indian village, including the customs and hardships of everyday life in the 17th century. I loved the way the author used Marie/Keskoua to vividly tell the stories and gossip about all of the different and unique characters in both the village and the French fort, as if the reader was a distant relative or her new best friend from another colony. Death in l'Acadie is an immersion into both the Native American and French cultures and languages, as well as showing how both had an influence on each other. With names like One Eyed Joe, Falcon, Cougar, Claude, and Young Rabbit Woman, you get an idea of the vast variety of characters that make this story happen. By the end of the story, all I can say is, “Wow! Well done!”