|Reviewing Chesapeake by James Michener|
"It was toward morning of the third night, when he had had only two small fish to eat in three days, that he came to those falls which his people called Conowingo, and here he faced the test which would determine the success of his escape. When he approached the white and leaping water he intended to drag his canoe ashore and portage it a long distance downhill, but as he paddled away from the middle of the river to the safety of shore.... "
Pentaquod's journey south by canoe from the Susquehanna River to Chesapeake Bay were stories that seemed familiar. The water and wildlife descriptions are similar to what can be experienced by those of us who sit along the banks or kayak these waters.
Pentaquod had never traveled as far as the open water of the bay. He chose an island on the eastern shore for his new home. There he is introduced to Blue Heron's, crabs, and the natural rhythms of life on the water. Later, he joins a part of the local tribe (later named the Choptank) and lives a long, mostly peaceful life living on the rivers and in the marshes of that area. Michener's descriptions of the flora and fauna make me feel as though I am sitting there, on the banks of the Choptank river.
In 1606, Captain John Smith brings ships and crews to the New World with a plan to "conquer Virginia". He also brings Edmund Steed. The Steed family is one of the families we follow over the centuries.
In Chesapeake, the focus is on a 400 year saga of these families who settled the area. Each of the families intertwine with the others over the years. While the characters, and an island on which one of the main families settle, are fictional the issues are historical. We are reminded how the people in the first colony barely survives. We are reminded that many of the first settlers are fleeing religious persecution and how that continues in the New World. As time goes on, "letter brides", indentured servants, and slaves join the growing population. Public whippings - including that of a Quaker woman - are the norm of the day. I was reminded that settling this country was no easy task. And this was just the beginning.
James Michener paints a picture of the area and of the families whose ancestry intertwine over time from the 1500s to the late 1970s. I will think of them every time I sit along the banks of the local waterways or watch the water spilling from Conowingo Dam.
Not long after I began reading Chesapeake, BarbRad reviewed The World is My Home by James Michener. She explains that in this memoir he shares stories of his life, travels, interests, and writing. I've added this memoir to my reading list and look forward to learning more about the author who wrote the engrossing story I'm reading now.
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