Listening for Drums
by Robin Strachan

Camel Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-603-81611-3.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 07/24/2017

Fiction: Mainstream

Carrie Nelson is a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) whose father and grandmother served as role models. Her father is an M.D. with a successful medical practice where he is holding a spot for his daughter. Her grandmother is a D.O. with a private practice. From an early age, Carrie learned from her grandmother about the importance of treating the whole body and the integration of complementary therapies, including herbs and osteopathic manipulation. She credits her grandmother with her desire to learn more about these complementary therapies from natural experts, the Blackfeet Indians.

Carrie has been volunteering at a small federal hospital outside Glacier National Park where the Blackfeet Indians seek medical care. Her passion for the people and the place, coupled with her interest in the culture of the Blackfeet (including the care rendered by the local medicine woman), propels her to apply for—and win—the prestigious Roosevelt Award, which will cover her expenses and fund her research for a year.

Unfortunately, the excitement about the award is over-shadowed by the harshly negative responses of her father and her fiance. Both men vehemently oppose her decision to spend a year in Montana. Both draw lines in the sand and deliver an ultimatum. But Carrie is undaunted. Her resolve grows stronger with every protest from the two most important men in her life. With the blessings of her grandmother, she departs for her year in Montana among the Blackfeet.

Strachan's writing is picturesque. I could close my eyes and see the places that Carrie called home during her time with the Blackfeet. Her characters are strong and well-developed. The story line moves seamlessly through the doubts, fears, heartaches, joys and celebrations that Carrie experiences while living among the Blackfeet. As she gains their trust, she is thrilled to be introduced to the local medicine woman. She spends time weekly with the old woman who reminds her of her own grandmother. In that time together, she learns about natural healing through roots and herbs.

Strachan has crafted a strong story of relationships: relationships lost (with the fiance), relationships created (with the Blackfeet people), relationships strained and then reconciled (between Carrie and her father as well as between her father and his mother), and relationships with nature and place.

Reading Listening for Drums is a delight on all levels. Part travelogue, part romance, part Native American cultural lesson, part study in relationships, this novel is a deeply satisfying experience.

Robin Strachan's poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in local, regional, and national publications for over thirty years. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, she began her writing career as a reporter doing features. Her personality feature stories for the newspaper and its sister magazine, coupled with her love of Maeve Binchy novels and all things related to the British Isles, eventually led to a decision to write fiction that includes strong individual character stories. Listening for Drums is her third novel. Her second novel, Designing Hearts, was published by Camel Press in 2015. Her first, Manifesting Dreams, was released in 2011. A sequel to Listening for Drums is in progress.

Since 1981, Ms. Strachan has served in executive and development roles in higher education, health care, and medical research. She holds a bachelor of arts degree with dual majors in English and philosophy. She is also a published poet and a professional artist. She currently lives in the Chicago area.

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