I Heard the Owl Call my Name by Margaret Craven
My favorite book when I was in high school was I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven, so I decided to reread it to see how I related to the book now. Even though it is almost 50 years old, the book is still just as timely and beautifully-written as it was in the 60’s. Perhaps its message is even more important in today’s world. It is about a young Vicar, Mark Brian, who has been diagnosed with only a few years to live. His Bishop has been told his diagnosis, but the Vicar has not.
When the Bishop learns of the young Vicar’s diagnosis he says, “So short a time to learn so much? It leaves me with no choice. I shall send him to my hardest parish. I shall send him to Kingcome on patrol of the Indian Villages.”
So Mark Brian begins his post in Kingcome, a Kwakiutl village on the British Columbian coast. The author spent quite some time with the Kwakiutl Indians on the Pacific coast in order to write this book, and it really shows in the portrayal of the Indian customs, culture, and outlook on life throughout the book.
The aspect of this book that I still love after all of these years is that the young Vicar goes there to help the Indians. Throughout all of the hunting and fishing rituals, weddings, funerals, illness, sorrows and joys he is full of respect for the Indians and is constantly striving to fit in with his congregation. The Kwakiutl Indians are plagued by poverty and alcoholism. Their young people are drifting away from the old traditions of the Kwakiutl people and yet, ultimately it is the Indians who teach him so much about life and spirituality and coming to terms with his own death with dignity.
It is such a powerful little book that after all these years the ending still made me cry—and I even knew what was coming.