The Last Beothuk

Written by Gary Collins
Review by Susan McDuffie

Canada, 1800s: The Beothuk, an indigenous people living in Newfoundland, were believed wiped out by 1829 when the woman Shanawdithit died in St. Johns. But perhaps that was not the case. In this novel Gary Collins, a well-known writer in his native Newfoundland, tells the story of Kop, the last remaining Beothuk, and his family as they fight to maintain their way of life in a rapidly changing world. The novel is based on the words of Santa, a woman who in 1910 claimed to be Kop’s daughter, as well as on other true historical incidents.

Gary Collins has given life to the saga of Kop and his family. Their search for others of their dwindling tribe, and the losses Kop faces at the hands of encroaching white settlers, makes a gripping story.

I had heard of the Beothuk when doing some research of my own, and was eager to read this book. Collins has obviously done his research, and I learned a great deal about Beothuk life, culture, and language as I read of Kop’s heartbreaking struggle. Photos of Santa, Shanawdithit, and others of the lost tribe add to the interest and provide additional background. For some reason Collins’s narrative style did not always draw me in; perhaps there was more telling than showing. But the author’s knowledge of his native Newfoundland—the geography, flora, and fauna—provides and rich and detailed backdrop to this moving tale.