Naapiikoan Winter

Written by Alethea Williams
Review by Celia Shea

Loosely based on the memoirs of 19th-century Hudson Bay Company fur trader David Thompson, Alethea Williams’ lovely, evocative novel centers on 17-year-old Donal Thomas, who is sent by the Company to live with the Pikani tribe over the course of a harsh winter in the Rocky Mountains. He is surprised to find another outsider living with the tribe, a woman named Isobel, the daughter of a Mexican landowner who was captured by the tribe years before and has been living with them ever since.

The two begin to build a relationship even as the trading partnership for which Thomas was the first tentative emissary creates tension between the Pikani and the Company merchantmen seeking both to hire and to exploit them. The uneasy juxtaposition between these worlds is handled with a great deal of confidence by Williams, who very skillfully humanizes the conflict through solid period research and a series of well-drawn characters.