Onwaachige The Dreamer, the third book in the Two-Spirit Chronicles is another delightful read by Jay Jordan Hawke. I loved the first two books in this series and the third is no exception. Not as dark as the second book, this one reaches levels of genuine hilarity in the banter between fourteen-year-old Joshua and his best friends, Mokwa and Little Deer. These three teen boys have distinctive personalities and play off each other perfectly. Having only just met at the beginning of summer in the first book, they bonded as only friends who were meant to be friends can bond.
This installment follows Joshua on a journey to discover the meaning of his dreams, and in a larger sense, to find his place in the world. He runs away following the horrific events that concluded A Scout is Brave because of a prophetic dream that terrifies him, and returns to the only place he has ever felt safe and secure – his grandfather’s Ojibwe reservation in Northern Wisconsin.
Back on the rez, Joshua tries to hide from his mother, who he knows will come searching for him. Once Mokwa – a fun-loving, sweet-natured teen who can’t keep a secret if his life depends on it – discovers Joshua by the lake, the cat is soon out of the bag. And speaking of cats, Pywacky, the rez cat, befriends Joshua and becomes a memorable character unto himself.
These three boys could be a comedy team. They know each other’s rhythms so well and their dialogue, as they first try to keep Joshua’s presence a secret and later set off into the north woods in search of Joshua’s father, is always spot-on and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. If this story were set in the present day, these three would be YouTube sensations – all they’d have to do is get on camera and just be themselves.
I also love the character of Gentle Eagle, Joshua’s wise and patient grandfather. In this installment, he has some extremely well-written scenes with Pastor Martin, a minister who has lived on the reservation for decades. Previously, Martin came across as a self-righteous man who disdained the Native culture that surrounded him and believed he had all the answers. In his extended conversations with Gentle Eagle, while they search for the missing Joshua, the man comes to understand and accept that Native ways are not bad and don’t conflict with his Christian beliefs as he’d always thought. Because he’d never taken the time to understand Gentle Eagle and the Ojibwe culture, he’d never realized how narrow-minded he’d become. These two men form a much stronger bond in this book, one that is built on mutual respect. Nice to see.
A new character, Caleb, one of the college interns who befriends Joshua, is also a breath of fresh air. He’s the kind of Christian I am more familiar with who behaves in a Christ-like manner and doesn’t judge Joshua for being Two-Spirit and doesn’t dismiss Native beliefs as being superstitions or even running counter to his own. He is a kind, generous young man who passes judgment on no one and at no time attempts to shove his beliefs on Joshua or another teen character, Crazy Crow. Seeing nuance in Christians is almost unheard of in books or movies – they are usually portrayed as stuffy, narrow-minded jerks – and I commend the author for his refreshing, more balanced, and more true to life take.
Since all three books occur over the same summer (yes, Joshua has an eventful three months), I would suggest starting with the first book, Pukawiss the Outcast. There are numerous references throughout this narrative to previous events, and much exposition in the first chapter, so reading Onwaachige as a standalone is perfectly acceptable. However, the arc of Joshua’s passage from a boy who was adrift to one who becomes anchored is a joy to behold and you really should take the entire journey. As for me, I eagerly await the further adventures of Joshua, Mokwa, and Little Deer. Let’s hope I don’t have long to wait.