Enbrethiliel over at Shredded Cheddar blogs regularly about settings in her Locus Focus posts, and I have always enjoyed the idea of pondering settings a bit deeper. However, the importance of place was truly brought home to me during my recent marathon Southwest road trip with girlfriends.
I had posted ages and ages ago about purchasing a book at the Brisbane airport. For the long-haul flight to the US I grabbed Mezza Italiana by Zoe Boccabella about an Italian-Australian's somewhat unwilling connection to her mother land.
It did look wonderful, it was wonderful, I started it and enjoyed it, but I just couldn't finish it. For many nights during our 4,305 mile (6,800km) road trip it languished on bed side tables in various hotels across the Southwest, or even unpacked in my day bag. In the end I gave it to my lovely sister, who was excited to read it. I am hoping I can reclaim it when we next meet.
I took a few moments out of an incredibly packed itinerary to ponder why I was neglecting such a great book. Then I realized the problem was the setting. Not the book's setting, but mine. Or rather, the disparity between the two. The land of the Zuni, Tiwa and Acoma is neither Australian nor Italian. Yes, we could be extrapolating to overarching themes of roots and culture in general, but it would be a huge stretch. So I gave up on poor Zoe and bought a book more suited to the area.
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac deals with the Navajo Marines who bravely served in World War II by sending messages that could not be translated by the enemy. It was fabulously suited to the area, of course, since more than once I saw gentlemen of the right age proudly wearing hats proclaiming their service in that branch.
Sitting on a shelf in a trading post next to jewellery and rugs, it appeared to be a local publication, and it was priced accordingly at about $8. However, the historical fiction was so well written, I immediately forgot any pre-concieved notions of amateurism.
It seems so real and true, yet is not autobiographical. Bruchac is of Native American heritage and his connection to his people and the Navajo is evident in the authentic tone of the novel. I was transfixed, reading in the car travelling through Monument Valley, putting in a bookmark to wander through pueblos and (yet more) trading posts. It was a perfect fit.
Actually, I bought this book for Hubby as part of his thanks-for-looking-after-the-kids gift collection, but ended up enjoying it so much it got a little worn...