I think most people have heard of Pocahontas. Maybe in school, or more recently in the Disney movie. The thing is, have you ever wondered how much is true and how much is legend? Probably a little of each, but the whole story, the real story, is much more complex and rather…heartbreaking. 

So why read on? Because it’s the story of a young girl filled with mischief and ambition who grows into a woman of courage and sacrifice. It’s full of rich characters you’ll care about and can learn from, even today. And because, when we learn more about the truth, we better appreciate what was gained, as well as what was lost.

 When John Smith sailed in search of a western passage to the East Indies, he ended up in a swampy piece of land in what is present day Virginia. They named it Jamestown and thought of it as the New World, but there was already a much older world that had claimed that land long before them and those native peoples fought an increasingly hopeless battle to hang on to it. 

Libbie Hawker’s novel, Tidewater, tells a piece of this story, the story of the real Pocahontas, and her father Powhatan and his people. Naturally, no one can know all the intimate details of the time, and so much has been cluttered up over the centuries with the legend of the woman who supposedly saved John Smith’s life and the lives of other settlers in Jamestown.

But Hawker has done a phenomenal job of pulling together copious details of the true history, creating fictional pieces that make sense and combining them for a truly compelling tale.

 Pocahontas wasn’t the nubile young woman Disney depicts, but a young, pre-pubescent girl with courage and a desire to learn the language of these new strangers in an effort to help her own people, maybe herself too. Though she brought peace for a while, ultimately, the English invasion of her people’s lands would put an end to their way of life. 

Don’t expect to find ‘The Colors of the Wind’, but do expect to come away with a greater appreciation of the Real People, the native people who populated the land—and the land itself. And definitely plan on enjoying Hawker’s lovely gift for description, painting her own pictures of the unspoiled world of the native people, their traditions and lives. It’s a true pleasure to read, even if, at times, a difficult story to know.

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