Tali Nohkati by Koza Belleli, translated by Dorine Heller

Published by Black Rose Publishing

Synopsis:

Creators of the World, Coyote and the Moon pay special attention to the only survivor of a blazing fire, Tali Nohkati, as the child takes his first steps. At the end of a long journey rich in animal encounters that takes him from the White Land to the Land of the Red Earth, Tali is finally adopted by a tribe.

After saving Nuttah from the sacrifice of the Morning Star, Tali seeks refuge in the mangrove close to Hitchiti the Alligator and Raven the Raven where Cagama the Turtle advises them to go to sea. In the heavenly light of the island of Cagama, they taste the true happiness of starting a family and of living in harmony with a tribe. However, all hell breaks loose as Huracan is unleashed, its violent winds destroying their piece of paradise and taking everything in their path, men and destinies alike…

This book is written in a creation myth style, full of vivid imagery and wonder though I struggled to figure out whereabouts in a creation timeline the story takes place – there seems to be a lot of humans about for the second generation!

The main character, Tali, embarks on an epic journey and learns important lessons from the animals he meets along the way as he makes his way towards a human settlement. The characters in this book are very distant so it’s hard to build more than a passing sympathy with them – the beauty of this book is in the message it conveys.

This is very much a coming of age story, ripe with meaningful subtext. The narrative was a little confusing in places, turning unexpected and jarring 180s and heading off in a new direction, never to discuss the things left behind again. It felt a little like large chunks of the story had been edited out and not put back together quite right, I would have preferred a longer book.

All in all, this book was a relaxing and enjoyable read – I enjoyed the first half over the second as it had more animal interactions and really embraced the fantastical side of the story.

I will also mention that though I enjoyed the story for what it was, I didn’t realise before picking the book up that it was written by a French author with no apparent connection to the Native American culture or traditions – this was clear to me while I was reading it as the characters lacked the heart I expected that would have inevitably made this a 5 star read.

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