I recently finished reading Danielle Daniel’s novel, Daughters of the Deer. I have a vague memory of hearing about it through the recommendation of an Instagram friend, though I can no longer remember who. The recommendation just happened to come at a good time, when I was between books. And it provided a few diverse perspectives (which has been a goal for my reading this year): a Native American perspective… an LGBT perspective… and a female perspective. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to explore these different points of view. But honestly, that’s probably about as far as my appreciation for the book went.
The author did the “different perspectives for different chapters” thing that’s become pretty popular in recent years. But unfortunately, the shifts were exceedingly abrupt and annoying. It felt tiresome to track the characters and the plot. Furthermore, the characters were one-dimensional, poorly developed, and unsympathetic. And the book often felt gratingly pedantic in its messaging. I’m certainly affected by my own cultural bias, but I honestly feel that I cannot recommend this book outside of its diversity benefits.
The story itself centers around two women, a mother and daughter, born in Canada during the time of the French and Indian War.
The first woman, Marie, is part of the Algonquin Nation, allied with the French during the war. Her first husband (an Algonquin warrior) is killed in a raid by the Iroquois Nation (allied with the English). Then, she eventually remarries — at the urging of her clan’s chief — with a French settler.
The second woman, Jeanne, is the daughter of Marie and the French settler: half-Algonquin, half-French, looked down upon as something of a “half-breed” from each side. As a teenager, she falls in love with another French settler’s daughter. But their relationship faces pressure from a society that doesn’t understand or accept the love between two women. And the story ends in tragedy.
I actually appreciated the historical perspective that some Native American communities looked at what we would now call “the LGBT Community” in a surprisingly favorable light. I suspect that was the spark for the author to create this story. But the author mentioned this perspective so many times that it felt preachy. And Jeanne was such a paragon of virtue and beauty and innocence that it was hard to relate to her. She was the classic one-dimensional “good guy.” And her persecutors were such classic one-dimensional “bad guys” that the story just lacked complexity, nuance, and intrigue.
Daughters of the Deer was not particularly worthwhile. Still, it was good to give it a try. And then move on to the next book as soon as possible.