There will be two lies, [the coyote] says. Then there will be the truth. And that will be the hardest of all.
And what lies they are. Even more so, as the coyote promises, the lies exposed by the truth. Nothing will be the same.
And that's not even to mention the small surprises and little white lies along the way.
For all that she can remember of her nearly 18 years, Shelby has enjoyed a quiet, stable life. She and her mom live in a simple house, do simple things. She is homeschooled. They have a routine that never changes. And she has little contact with others. Shelby knows she is sheltered, but she doesn't mind because she is happy.
Then something unexpected happens, one of those unlucky moments life randomly throws at you. And after that, well, nothing expected happens. No more quiet, stable life. No more routine. No more Mom the way she has always been, because suddenly Shelby's mom starts acting like a completely different person.
Oh, Mom has good reason to act different. It makes a sort of sense, even if it's surprising. Except . . . a coyote spoke to Shelby. She might have passed it off as a trauma-induced hallucination, except it keeps happening. And Shelby finds herself guided into a strange, magical land called the Dreaming where animals talk and myths come alive.
And, really, is that so strange compared to everything happening in her real life? So Shelby finds herself shuttling back and forth between two confusing, off-kilter worlds, one reality (though not the one she's always known) and one mystical, chasing and being chased, questing for things she does not know or understand.
So maybe Mom's reasons for acting different can't be trusted. And despite the coyote's warning, nothing can prepare her for the big reveal.
Not only are Shelby's dual, interwoven journeys gripping and captivating, the story has enough length beyond that big reveal to give it proper depth and resolution. For the first two-thirds of the book I was dying to know what would happen, then the rest I was dying to know what would happen about what had happened. My curiosity was fully satisfied.
Shelby makes an excellent narrator, both personable and eloquent, with some wonderful descriptions of her emotional experiences and enough silence to let her actions say the rest. For someone who has pretty literally interacted with almost no one her entire life, she has a great ability to relate herself to others. This book is a mystery and so much more.
There are things that, when they break, they keep on functioning, just in some other, lesser way. Like an elevator: it breaks, and it's a room. An escalator: it breaks, and it's stairs.
The heart is the same.
It breaks, and you might not even notice, because you still feel things, you still have emotions.
But there's a dimension missing, like for the elevator; it still works as a room, but it has lost its vertical axis of motion, and it's the same with a heart: it breaks, and yeah, you can still have feelings, you can still feel sorry for someone, or angry, or sad, but there's something that's lost, a motion, a dimension. It breaks, and it's just an organ, beating.
You will never really feel happy again; you will never really, deep down, care about anyone else again.
I look up--the stars glitter above us, chips of ice, diamonds.
Coyote scattered those, it says. That is why they are so beautiful. There is no order. There is only the vastness of the heavens, the randomness of the stars. Would they be more beautiful if they were lined up in rows?
No, I say.
It lowers its head. And the flood? Did the elks tell you why Coyote stole the River God's child?
No, I say.
Because the River God had taken two human children. Coyote paid her back. And it was because of the flood that people climbed the reed to the Fourth World, and gained knowledge, and culture, and time, and all good things.
He created death, I say.
Imagine a world without death, says the eagle contemptuously. Imagine the horror.
I frown. It has a point.
Coyote is chaos, says the eagle. He is misrule. He takes order and routine and he breaks it, he scatters it. But always, when he has done so, the world that is left is a better one. Would you want a year with no seasons?
I shake my head.
Consider the rain, says the eagle. It is in Coyote's gift to control. It can wash things away, it can destroy, it can drown. But it nourishes everything. The chain of life depends on it. That is the nature of Coyote.
To . . . nourish?
Yes. While washing away. Cleansing the past. . . .
Coyote is more ancient even than you, says the eagle. You should listen when he speaks.
Okay, I say. You think I should trust him, I get it.
I think you should trust him to be untrustworthy, says the eagle. You should trust him to take peace and make it war, to take order and replace it with chaos. But always, what is left will be better.