Thursday, June 21, 2012

Journeys across Niagara The Flute, the Feather, and the Drum

I chose this book from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program expecting to read the story of a modern-day daredevil, perhaps like the man who recently tightrope-walked across the falls. Instead, it tells the story of four boys wanting to cross the famous “ice bridge” in the 1960s. Interwoven with their stories are the accounts of four different people’s interactions with Niagara Falls, from a British drummer boy to escaped slaves and a European hermit. In this way, the author attempts to provide a historical panorama along with the adventure story. It meets with mixed success. The separate accounts are clearly distinguished from the main story, but it also takes us away from the first-person narrator and proves distracting. At least once I wondered where these accounts were coming from, in contrast to the main parts which were in 1st-person.

Another element that might give some readers pause is the language. While this book comes from a Christian publisher, the language is true to the setting, with side characters making racist remarks against people of African descent (although this is clearly looked down on by the main characters) and the boys use words such as “piss” and “crap.” I didn’t find it troubling at all, and thought it made the characters more realistic, but some people might be surprised to find these words.

The details were well-done and realistic, and the characters had some distinguishing facts to them. Overall, it was an interesting book, but didn’t have anything that especially jumped out at me. One of the elements that disappointed me was a description of a curious moment one of the boys had in the ice. It seemed to suggest mysterious possibilities that were never picked up.

3 stars


  1. Did you get the sense that the book was well researched? It seems like a lot of it is based on details about Niagara Falls and its history, and I'm worried I wouldn't enjoy it if it seems like the author didn't put work into presenting Niagara Falls (at least somewhat) realistically. I'm debating requesting this book from Booksneeze but I'm not sure.

    1. I thought it was well-researched, and I've been to Niagara Falls myself, but it felt like the author couldn't decide what story he wanted to tell. The stories within the story would have made an interesting anthology, but the framing device makes them awkward.