Saturday, May 16, 2020

Book Review: Togwotee Passage by L.G. Cullens

Goodreads Summary: Togwotee (toe'-ga-tee) is the name of a challenging mountain pass in the Absaroka Mountains of northwest Wyoming. In the title of this fictive tale, it's a metaphor for the main character's physical and cognitive Passage through the seasons of life's chaotic landscape.
The story begins with a dysfunctional family life in the 1940s that stains Calan's outlook. When the abuse escalates to life-threatening, an intervention introduces him to wilderness on a grand scale, as well as a Shoshone friend with a differing perspective of life. This but fledgling steps in a life of unexpected twists and turns.

With off-the-beaten-path experiences and intimately relatable characters, this tale is a thought kindling journey of mind and spirit, complemented with expressive illustrations.

Literary Eco-fiction, Adventure, Nature

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars with one review

Genre listing: Literary Eco-fiction, Adventure, Nature

Goodreads Challenge: 18/60

2020 Reading Challenge: #13 a book under 400 pages (see the full challenge here)


First, some legal stuff: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

It's been a while since I've done an author requested review, probably around a year since the last one. I feel like I should explain my process with the author requested reviews since it's been so long. I tend to approach these a little differently than I do my regular reviews. With reviews of books that I've chosen for myself, I'm not nearly as critical in the reviews. I'm still honest about them, but I don't go into thinking about the author's needs from the review. My audience is mostly just my blog readers who want to know about that book. Whereas with the author requested ones, I feel that I have two audiences, the author and the reader. I'll never intentionally be mean if I don't care for a book, but I do promise to be honest and be constructive with my feedback. This isn't necessarily to foreshadow for this review in specific, but I have a handful of author requested reviews coming up, and I thought it'd be helpful to better explain my process.  Anyways, on with the review! This is going to be a lengthy one.

L.G. Cullens reached out to me asking for a review, and honestly, when he said it was about Native American mythology, I was in. It doesn't take much to pique my interest. He caught me at an interesting time when I was digging through, trying to figure out where my own Native American roots come into my family's timeline. Beyond history classes, it's not a culture that I read a ton of. Truthfully, I need to make a point to learn about more cultures altogether. 

I'm going to get the negative out of the way that way we can end on a positive note. For what it's worth, I really hate providing negative feedback for any book I read, but if I didn't, it wouldn't be honest. The things I didn't like about the book were mainly technical issues that I had as a reader. Please note, I am not an editor. I have a basic college education and a Grammarly account that I probably don't run as often as I should. When I talk about technical findings, feel free to take it with a grain of salt. 

Togwotee Passage starts in the third-person present tense. The latter is definitely not my preference to read. This problem is with me, not a problem with the book. My brain sees it and shuts down, so it takes me a while to process when reading in the present tense. My issue with the book is somewhere around chapter twelve. It switches to first-person present tense for a couple of chapters before turning back to the original way. I think one of the chapters from the different points of view was in the wife's perspective as well. There may be technically correct reasons for the change; however, as a reader, it took me out of the story. When I read it, I basically stopped and was like 'Wait, did that just change from third-person to first?' and then I had to go back and figure out if it did or if I imagined it. Unfortunately, it took me a little bit to regain interest in the story, and then when it changed back, I had the same reaction. The second time around, it wasn't as strong as a reaction, and I was able to move on pretty quickly. For me, even from the wife's perspective, I think it would have just felt more consistent with sticking with either first person or third. 

That is really my biggest "negative" with the book, so let's move on to the positive parts of the story! Togwotee Passage is very character-driven. It covers a lot of years in only a short amount of pages, luckily we aren't going year to year. It more sums up a decade and sticks to significant moments in Calan's life. L.G. does an excellent job of instantly making you feel for Calan and what he's gone through. When the book starts, Calan is just a boy, and within a few pages, you already begin to feel sorry for the kid and want him to do well. In a lot of ways, I thought the character was really relatable because of that. Honestly, Calan reminded me a lot of my dad. 

I think even if Eco Literature isn't your thing, you will learn a lot. I certainly feel like I did. I wasn't all that interested in science growing up, and Environmental Science was really the only one that piqued my interest in school. The way it is written, you can tell that L.G. Cullens is very knowledgable about the subject. At least for me, it definitely made me evaluate how I approach the environment. I've always had a certain respect for nature. I could be better at practicing it, but my general thought has always been to not upset Mother Nature. There's a certain balance that's represented in this book. If you're hunting or fishing, don't take more than you need. Leave the wild animals alone, and they'll likely leave you alone. There's a lot more to what is taught in this book, and I honestly wouldn't be able to do the educational factor justice if I went into all of it.

There is more than just storytelling in this book. There are also a few poems and artwork as well, which I think the author did himself. I really liked the poetry, and the artwork really helps with picturing the story. I particularly liked the images dealing with some of the wildlife. The pictures of the character's huskies were probably my favorite. I think the artwork is sort of a vector style if I had to guess, but it'd only be a guess. 

I thought that the ending was really appropriate for Calan's beliefs. It made nature and ideologies that Calan learned on the reservation come full circle. It also really tied into the cover artwork and made me go "Aww!" when I realized the connection. Overall, Tugwotee Passage is a short read at under 300 pages. Don't be put off by the same technical things I was and give it a chance. It's an excellent way to learn some things. 

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