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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Harvest Moon by Jenny Knipfer is one of the best books I have read in 2020. In fact, it is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I have come away deep in thought, feeling somewhat like I’ve had a mystical experience and one I will never forget. Harvest Moon, set in the far north of Ontario in the late 19th century, is the beautiful and touching history of a fictional Ojibwe family through several generations. Knipfer’s novel follows the growth of the story’s central character, Maang-ikwe, from childhood to older age. Readers watch her grow. We experience her despair at falling in love with a white priest when she has been promised to a future Indian chief. Then she is raped. Though she wants to keep the child, Niin-mawin, her family feels it’s better for her son to be raised by her aunt. It breaks her heart but she complies.
As the years pass, both mother and son (once he’s old enough to realize the aunt isn’t his mother) long to meet each other but life constantly gets in the way. The son grows up and along the way finds himself working with his biological father. As truths emerge over the years, Niin-mawin finds himself conflicted by the duality of his background: an Indian boy made over into the Englishman’s ways by cane-yielding teaching priests. His spiritual experience is similar to that of his mother decades prior ie. is the Christian God one and the same as the Ojibwe deity? Like his Indian brothers, he is no longer really at home in his native land which now belongs to the white man who is hell-bent on changing Indian lives, thoughts, and religious beliefs.
I could go on and on about Harvest Moon but it is a book that you deserve to experience for yourself. Beautifully written, it makes excellent use of dialogue to keep things moving along and give readers a much clearer and endearing understanding of each character and his/her motivations and actions. You will feel every emotion of hope, despair, sadness, and joy that Maang-ikwe and others experience. You will learn, in such an excellent way, about Canada’s history, culture, and the pastimes of the early inhabitants. And you will come away feeling you have truly shared a family’s love. Not every author can do this so realistically and elegantly. Thank you, Jenny Knipfer, for this unforgettable story.