Blogger ate this when I wrote it last week :*( but here goes again. My friend Marc Sheaffer, when he was working at Brodart (library supplies etc. company), polled librarians for their favorite books. Here are the top 100. [link updated again 7/1/2018, the list keeps going away!] Tisha was one of the few I’d never heard of (the others are Pillars of the Earth by Follett (not Ken, surely?) and Follow the River by Thom; there are 17 titles I haven’t tried, 7 I’ve started but didn’t finish, and 5 I can’t remember whether I’ve actually read them or not. I love most of the other 68, so it’s a good source for future reading–librarians have great taste!)
I expected this would be a heartwarming tale, but verging on sentimental/romanticized/whitewashed. Nothing of the sort. Heartwarming, yes, but very candid about the difficulties and especially the racism of the Alaskan frontier. Since it was written in the 70s, even though it’s set in the 20s, it has a level of frankness that would be unusual earlier. Anne (called “Tisha” (Teacher) by one of her students) sees the good and the bad in the people around her and is not corrosively bitter about it. And there’s a happy ending–eventually–which since it’s supposedly a true story (seems to be confirmed by witnesses), is especially gratifying. The one weird thing to me is that since Anne herself was 1/4 Native American, and she didn’t make a point of concealing it, I would have expected that to be an issue discussed one way or the other.
The jacket blurb says that Specht “is now working on a sequel to Tisha,” which he never did. Anne Hobbs Purdy wrote another book, Dark Boundary, which I’ll see if I can track down. I wonder how much of the voice is Specht and how much Anne herself; he gets all the credit on the jacket but the Library of Congress record has her as primary author, as do other sources I’ve found on the Internet. Anyway, it’s a terrific, absorbing book, and Anne is a brave and admirable character.