Every so often in American literature, a book appears that captures the attention of a society whose people, in the midst of rapid and dramatic progress, sometimes lose track of the essential truths of American life and the roots from which their industrial age arose. Henry Thoreau's classic, Walden, for example, points to the values of a simplified life lived in harmony with nature. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn takes the reader on a journey into an America where cruelty and injustice had infested a proud and free society, all seen through the eyes of an innocent, "uneducated" boy.

American civilization has witnessed a variety of social experiments dedicated to restoring a "lost" America and revitalizing its people's relationship with nature. Even into the twentieth century, this impulse to appreciate preindustrial society has remained an American tradition. In recent times, much attention has been paid to the Native Americans—their traditional coexistence with the natural world and their battles against cultural extinction.

Craven's novel, often classified as an "inspirational" best seller, is a fascinating and unusual document based on the author's experiences. The narrative travels into the heart of one tribe, describing for the reader the lessons the Kwakiutl taught to the author. In a society dominated by high technology, a capitalist economic system, and rapid cultural change, Craven's novel transports young readers into...

(The entire section is 406 words.)