Ghost Woman

Overview

Based on a chilling historical event, Ghost Woman is a tale of the arrogance of colonizers, rape, guilt, punishment and retribution. It is set on the Southern California coast during the early nineteenth century, when Catholic missionaries rounded up all the local
Indians except those still living on San Nicolás Island. When this group is finally captured, one woman jumps from the boat and returns to the island for her missing child. The novel is that woman's story, and the ...

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Overview

Based on a chilling historical event, Ghost Woman is a tale of the arrogance of colonizers, rape, guilt, punishment and retribution. It is set on the Southern California coast during the early nineteenth century, when Catholic missionaries rounded up all the local
Indians except those still living on San Nicolás Island. When this group is finally captured, one woman jumps from the boat and returns to the island for her missing child. The novel is that woman's story, and the story of the white family with whom her life becomes entangled after she too is taken from her island home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on a Native American legend of a solitary, apparation-like woman who once roamed the California coast, Thornton's ( Imagining Argentina ) deeply felt but overly schematic new novel tells the story of Sage, a Chumash Indian woman, and her tragic encounter with white civilization. When her entire village is captured and enslaved and her infant daughter dies, Sage is left behind to wander her island home for 10 years. Finally, she too is caught and turned over to Spanish priest Fray Santos, who is determined that she will become a Christian. Given a new name, Soledad, and forcibly indoctrinated with Christian theology, she is installed in the household of rancher Henry Harper, whose pious wife Elizabeth becomes her protector. Harper, however, rapes Soledad, impregnating her. Soledad hangs herself, beginning a cycle of blackmail, incest and ultimate retribution that spans two generations. Trying to give his story Obviously aspiring to mythic proportions, Thornton attempts to invest Soledad's life and ghostly legacy with mystical significance, but the portentous prose fails to resonate; after a compelling beginning, the narrative is often inert and contrived. The book's impact lies in its wider implications: Thornton's depiction of the injustice inflicted on Native Americans, much of it in the name of religion, and its lasting damage. Author tour. (June)
Library Journal
In the late 1700s, a young native woman jumps from a sailing ship to rescue her child, left behind when a group of island people are taken by Europeans to a new and harsh life at a California mission settlement. Ten years later, an ambitious friar arranges to have the woman captured and brought to the mainland to serve as an example of Christian salvation. Sent to live with a sea captain and his lonely wife, she is raped by her brutish host, setting in motion a relentless process of violence, retribution, and death that will inflict suffering for two generations. The cinematic narrative employs several points of view, surrounding the reader with period flavors and settings as the tragedy unfolds. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. A fine choice for a booktalk to adults and older YAs.-- Barbara Valle, Cty. of Los Angeles P.L., Norwalk
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520220683
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Series: California Fiction Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Thornton is the author of the novels Tales from the Blue Archives (1997), Naming the Spirits (1995), Under the Gypsy Moon (1991), and Imagining Argentina, which won the 1987 PEN/Hemingway Award and the PEN/USA West Award, as well as the Commonwealth Club Prize for first novel and the Shirley Collier Award. He also wrote Unbodied Hope: Narcissism and the Modern Novel (1984). He lives in Claremont, California.

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