A fugitive from the law for over forty years, Coyote Viejo tells the story of his escape from oppressive foster care on an Arizona chicken ranch and the success that followed as a high school wrestler and cross country runner, culminating with graduation from a fine university in Pennsylvania and his dream job as a high school coach and teacher, far distant in every way from the Indian reservation of his birth. A star-crossed love affair brings him down and exposes the dark secrets of his childhood, taking him back to exorcise his demons and confront his childhood tormentor. Then he must run again. Coyote escapes to an Indian reservation in Southern California, creates a new identity and rebuilds his life, gradually easing his fear of being discovered. After many years, however, Coyote's path crosses that of a young woman named Sarah Whitewater, a graduate student in Indian Studies at the University of Arizona who tracks him down and exposes his secrets. Her dissertation research is not her only reason to be interested in Coyote's story, however; their lives intertwine in complex ways and she has a deeper understanding of Coyote's history than he has himself. Sarah's unexpected revelations lift a great burden from the shoulders of Coyote as an old man, freeing him to speak as he has never spoken before to anyone. In the book COYOTE SPEAKS his full story is revealed. Although this novel tells the story of one contemporary Native American man, it follows the classical tradition of novels portraying the struggle to overcome adversity, exposing human frailty and human virtue, and in that sense it transcends the limits of race, gender, place and time. Sex, violence and addiction are inescapable elements of human life, not excluded from Coyote's story. The protagonist is an American Indian/Native American by both birth and death, but he grows up in an environment surrounded by people of every racial and ethnic variety in America, so this is a story about one individual American, not a story about Native Americans more broadly. As a boy and young man Kit Coyote is deeply committed to the sports of wrestling and cross country running, where his talents and opportunities lie, with consequences that liberate and elevate his adult life. These experiences are important elements of Coyote's story, described here in some depth, but the message goes beyond this one young man and his particular choice of sports. Many young men and women in America have found athletic competition to be their channel of escape from poverty and family adversities, and this is their story too. Every novel can be read at two levels, and so it is for COYOTE SPEAKS: Cross Country Run.
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Childhood Abuse, Retribution, Recovery, and Ultimate Redemption Peter Likins “Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run” captures the plight of Kit Coyote traumatized by the beating, verbal abuse, and hatred of Jake Durkins his foster father. Durkins operated a chicken ranch and foster home in the semi-arid desert of Ajo, Arizona, located about 100 miles from Tucson. Coach K. from nearby Tucson discovered Kit’s natural gift for running and took an interest in training him in the finer points of running competitively. When life at the chicken ranch became unbearable Kit escaped the horror of hatred and abuse and ran from Ajo to Tucson to the home of Coach K. and his wife Teresa. The Karangetti’s became his new foster parents. Opportunities opened up for Kit during high school in Tucson. He excelled in running and in the sport of wrestling and received a college scholarship at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. A series of bad choices, led to the need to establish a new identity for Coyote: he became a fugitive of the law and fled to California. Likins writes with a rare sensitivity and gentle spirit that reveal a keen observation of the best in mankind even in light of exposure to the most deplorable and evil of others. This understanding allows him to use the elements of story and a fictional approach to become platform for issues of socio and culture inequity. The realism and striking imagery found in “Coyote Speaks” add a dimension to the elements of conflict and resolution used throughout the story to develop a suspenseful plot and to build character identity. “Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run” is timely, especially relevant in light of recent acts of random shooting, acts of terrorism, and international racial and religious tension. This is a poignant story of the impact of childhood trauma on life choices in times of personal crisis. A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.