Categorized | Features

Windigo Island, by William Kent Krueger 2014

In recent years two reports have been published that expose the commercial sexual exploitation of Native American girls and women in Minnesota. This is what Windigo Island is about. But it is a novel, not a report. While the exploitation of teenage Native girls is the theme, the book is mostly about family.
The family is loosely knit. Some relationships are tight; some have been neglected, but are re-established as the family members work together to solve the murder of 14-year-old Carrie Verga, an Ojibwa girl whose body has washed up on Windigo Island.
Carrie has been missing for some time and her death raises questions as to the fate of her friend Mariah Arceneau. They haven’t been seen or heard of her for a year and while it’s been assumed they have simply run away to the big city, Carrie’s death raises the question of possible abduction.
Mariah’s mother Louise, a diabetic with only one leg, whose life has been a long downward spiral since her daughter’s disappearance, enlists the help of Cork O’Connor, a former policeman now working as a private investigator. At this point the family begins to come together. Cork’s daughter Jenny plays a pivotal role. And there is game warden Daniel English and Aurora Meloux, a healer who is nearing the 100 year mark and who is everybody’s grandfather.
Since all of them are Native Americans, their efforts to find Mariah are hampered by a lack of co-operation from white policemen. They, in fact, carefully avoid involving the police except when it’s absolutely necessary.
Their search leads them to the city, where they slowly uncover the extent of the teenage prostitution operation run by a mysterious man known only as Windigo.
While the search for Windigo, and the missing Mariah, propel the action forward, it is the gradual growth of the family and its individual members that makes Krueger’s book a highly recommended novel.