Doubleday says I Heard the Owl Call My Name is Margaret Craven’s her first novel, but that description is a bit overblown. Owl is really a longish short story. All the narrative bones are in place without the flesh and guts to make it a novel.
A Catholic Bishop sends a young, newly-ordained priest to a remote Native American community in British Columbia where running water means a river. There are no roads, no electricity, no telephone, no doctor.
Young Mark Brian has to adjust to a new role in an unfamiliar culture among people whose language he doesn’t know in a rural village miles from anyone he knows.
Mark is quickly captivated by the setting: the sea, rivers, fish, animals, and landscape enthrall him. The children are next to win his heart.
Mark is blessed with ability to listen and empathize, not forcing his ways on his congregation. Unlike most outsiders, Mark realizes the value of the traditional native traditions.
He is as torn as many of his parishioners are at the realization that the community is doomed to extinction.
I wish another writer had attempted to turn this story into a novel. A novel of this sort requires the author get inside the characters. Craven doesn’t do that.
I Heard the Owl Call My Name
by Margaret Craven
Doubleday,  166 p.
1974 bestseller #8. My grade: B
© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni