Friday, April 14, 2017

"Song of the Lion"

Anne Hillerman is an award-winning reporter, the author of several nonfiction books and the New York Times bestselling novels Spider Woman's Daughter and Rock with Wings, and the daughter of New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Song of the Lion (Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito Series #3), and reported the following:
From page 69:
Bernie took it out of her pocket. Sandra looked at it. “See, from this angle it looks like shush.” Sandra was right. It could be a bear, the spirit of courage. But Bernie saw náshdóítsoh more clearly.

Gloria Chino, the potential witness, lived only ten miles from the Shiprock substation, but the road was exceptionally awful. Bernie’s unit, an SUV, had good clearance, but she took the road slowly negotiating the ruts, glad there was still a bit of daylight.

She pulled up in front of a manufactured home with a hogan next to it. A committee of three large dogs, each one brown with black on their ears, legs, tails, or muzzles, came up to the vehicle, growling. Bernie waited, and then a squat woman in a sweater the color of crisp bacon, her black hair in a ponytail, came to the door and called the animals. The dogs grew quiet, but Bernie could feel their eyes on her as she walked toward the front door.

“I’m Officer Bernadette Manuelito. I’m investigating the bombing last night.” She summarized her conversation with Bruce Chino at the substation.

The woman nodded and introduced herself with her clans. Bernie did the same. On this part of the reservation she frequently encountered clan sisters, but Gloria wasn’t related. Bernie followed the woman inside. The dogs stayed out but on the alert.

The house was neat. A well-worn Two Grey Hills blanket covered the couch. A glass case in the corner held shiny brown Navajo ware and painted Pueblo bowls. Bernie saw a well-made wedding basket, sports trophies, and family photos.

“Bruce told me he was going to stop at the police station in case someone was interested in what I saw. Thanks for coming all the way out here.” Gloria gave her the hint of a smile. “I remember you from the game, giving orders. I thought you were taller.”
The page opens with the last few sentences of a conversation that goes to the heart of Song of the Lion’s story. Officer Bernadette Manuelito and the Navajo Nation’s Shiprock substation dispatcher-officer manager Sandra are talking about a rock. But not just any rock. It’s a natural fetish rock Sandra found on Mount Taylor, or Tsoodzil, the Navajos’ sacred mountain of the south. She thinks it is shaped like a bear, an animal traditional Navajos hold sacred. Bernie sees another shape in it, the protective spirit of the mountain lion.

The story on this page continues with Bernie doing her job as crime solver, interviewing a possible witness to a fatal incident at Shiprock High School. The Two Grey Hills blanket on the couch is a reference to weaving---one of the on-going subthemes---and especially to the style of weaving that Bernie’s mother does.

Is this page representative of the book? Yes, although the novel also has action---a car exploding, several attempted murders, an animal attack, a helicopter rescue, angry protestors, feisty old ladies and family conflict, some of which leads to disaster.

On a personal note, I fell in love with fetishes, small depictions of animals, on one of my first trips to Zuni Pueblo, a village famous for its fetish carvers. I also have a few wonderful rocks in which I see the shape of animals, rocks I came across while hiking. My favorites are a smooth black rock and a piece of rose quartz. The black stone reminds me of a raven from one angle and a bat from another. The quartz resembles a hawk. And, although I am not a weaver myself, beautiful Navajo rugs and blankets have long been part of my life beginning when I was in college and my parents gave me a rug with the Navajo Yei figures as a graduation gift. The rugs show up in my writing like old friends.
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Hillerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spider Woman's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Spider Woman's Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue