Selkie Dreams

Written by Kristin Gleeson
Review by Beth Turza

Máire lives in comfort with her father and their servants in Belfast in 1889. Her loving cook has always maintained that Máire’s mother did not die but was a legendary selkie who returned to the sea years ago. When her father informs her that she is to marry his business partner, she postpones this undesirable request by applying for a temporary position as a missionary teacher in Alaska. She meets William during her trip, and his efforts to court her are not as welcome as he had hoped; after becoming better acquainted, they realize they hold very different opinions. Máire’s attempts at finding independence are dashed, as she is housed with controlling people, and her teaching attempts are judged and censored.

I found the vivid descriptions of the native clothing and clan traditions very interesting and well researched. The author brings the Alaskan native culture alive with descriptions of the interiors of the dwellings in the clan villages. Máire finds that she is strangely drawn to the natives, whose dark shiny hair and dark eyes remind her of the selkie legend. She becomes friends with two native sisters, eagerly learning about their language and traditions and adopting their clothing style as well. She falls for their brother, Daniel (Natsilane), who treats her with indifference. It is strange that even when they find themselves together briefly, he still remains withdrawn, and she finds no love or comfort with him until the end of the book. The ending is abrupt and hurried, and there is an unsatisfactory conclusion for the main characters.