This is a lovely coming-of-age story set in central Virginia during the summer of 1969. Nettie, age 16, and Win are best friends. They spend a lot of time with Win’s grandmother, Nibi, who is a Monacan Indian shaman. She sets the girls the task of creating dreamcatchers. They help kill the deer whose tendons are needed, collect owl and eagle feathers, and mine amethyst. Nibi sees omens, such as a black owl, that she believes predict a natural disaster.
In the meantime, Nettie must sort out her feelings for boyfriend Andy: he declares love, but she isn’t ready to reciprocate, so they break up. Yet Nettie feels jealous when Andy is seen dating Anne, a girl Nettie has never gotten along with. Her pastor thinks Nettie’s too immature to accept baptism with the rest of her class, so he assigns her to take extra summer counseling sessions with his assistant.
Matters come to a head when the assistant pastor steps over the line in his relationship with Nettie, just before the disaster Nibi foresaw strikes: the remnants of Hurricane Camille loose massive amounts of rain, resulting in catastrophic mudslides and flooding in the mountainous region. While Nettie and Win are trying to help friends to higher ground, Nettie is caught in a mudslide.
Multiple well-rounded characters populate this novel. Nettie is the obvious protagonist, but she isn’t all good. She must confront her flaws and apologize for past behavior, made difficult when that person won’t accept her apology. And Nettie grows further in confronting the assistant pastor about his attempted assault and resolving her relationship with Andy. The girls’ adventures with Nibi creating the dreamcatchers are memorable, as is Nibi’s subtle training of Win to become the next shaman. Highly recommended to both YA readers and adults, plus inspirational fiction fans.