The book is broken up into several sections, with a jump of a generation between them, but all tying back to Chinook princess and shaman Ilchee, who as a young girl traveled alone into the mountains where she met “the raven” who spoke to her of the river’s future,
The ships begin arriving as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company who builds forts at Astoria and Vancouver. The River people are eager to trade, but get more than they bargained for when they succumb to the diseases that also come with the white men. In the next section, the wagon trains begin arriving from the east and Suzanna and her father rest from the journey at the Whitman Mission (I think you all know what happened there). 1870 sees the arrival of the Chinese who come to work the canneries, and in 1880 the logging industry booms and Ilchee’s grandson reaps its rewards, but will they listen to the old woman and heed her warnings so that the land may be saved for future generations?“And Raven told her that the river would be tamed like a dog, the people would die, the land will float, and the red fish will come no more.”
The very last section begins in 1915 and is aptly titled The River Movers, as modern man sees the potential in the river for generating electricity and begins building the dams that will forever change the landscape, as well as the livelihood of its native people,“…we could set out seedlings. That’d give ‘em an even better chance. And then a hundred years from now, there’d still be big timber on these hills.”
Since this book isn’t heavy on plot or pacing, it might not appeal to all readers, but should interest those with a love of the Columbia and an interest in the area and its history – but be warned if you are coming into this cold with no knowledge of the towns and the locations you’ll feel a bit lost – find yourself a good reference map and use it. I liked how the author used Ilchee and the subsequent generations, finally bringing them full circle with their long-forgotten Indian heritage and ties to the river. 4/5 stars.“Where once a set of rapids and falls had carved out the stones, leaping and thrashing waters around huge boulders, now a placid pool was rising.”
I've attached some photos I've taken during my trips to the area.