Circles is a beautifully written story depicting the lives of the fish people, a small -American Indian tribe at the time of the Europeans’ arrival to the continent. The characters are richly drawn and endearing, especially the young boy, Feather Floating in Water, whose powerful dreams foreshadow the impending threat to his people. As he grows, these dreams force him at too tender an age into leading his people through a time of crisis .
I’m not qualified to say how accurately the culture or history is portrayed. Since it’s a work of fiction, it doesn’t matter. Suffice it to say that the culture is spiritual but in a way that differs from our own, with deep ties to nature. Animals have names and serve as spirit guides, elders are honored, and dreams are visions that guide the tribe through difficult times.
If you’re looking for a western action-adventure, Circles will not be your cup of tea. The author takes you inside the hearts and minds of an almost mystical people, who live their lives in innocence, at peace with everyone and everything around them, lives filled with humor, mystery and wonder.
Some reviewers have worried about the long (and sometimes changing) names. These require a bit of work on the part of the reader but this so-called problem puts Circles in the same realm as books by Murikami, with unfamiliar Japanese names, or Garcia Marquez, whose Hundred Years of Solitude has many characters with identical names across generations. The brief introduction at the beginning of the book is worthwhile and can facilitate the understanding of the characters and culture.
Circles possesses a lyrical style, reminiscent of a book like The Little Prince, but with a unique view of American Indian culture. If you enjoy dwelling for a time in the hearts and minds of those with a different yet beautiful relationship with the world they live in, you will enjoy this book. It does what all good books do—it allows the reader to see a special world through different eyes.