Margaret Craven Elaine Moss - Essay

Elaine Moss

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A book thoughtful readers will surely return to again and again is Margaret Craven's I Heard the Owl Call My Name. The Red Indian philosophy, firmly rooted in nature, is both a challenge to modern man and an undeniable comfort…. As the book gets under way—the early pages are not very easily digested—the reader's view of life and sense of the passing years will change along with Mark's. For the acceptance of Mark by the Indians, their trust in him, and their quiet decision to bestow on him the blessing of being one of their family replace time (which is running out for Mark) by eternity…. It is hard to imagine a more complete and fulfilling book than this.

Elaine Moss, "The Sins of Our Fathers," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1974; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3796, December 6, 1974, p. 1375.∗

Not a particularly bracing successor to the author's successful I Heard the Owl Call My Name (1973), this baldly sentimental, loudly preachifying saga [Walk Gently This Good Earth] takes a family from the good, simple, old days of solid virtue before World War II up to the present—all of it set in the Pacific northwest and Montana. Except for father Westcott, who exhibits a certain off-beat elegance, this brood … is noble and pure-hearted beyond belief. Also cloying and a bit unreal … There's lots of stirring scenery, and Craven knows her day-to-day farming. However, her penchant for moralizing brings forth sermons and editorials which whether or not you go along stand out like rocks in the soup…. Nonetheless, The Owl hit best-sellerdom and was made into a TV movie, so don't underestimate the power of the sugar-coated sapsucker to perch next to the Waltons and slightly to the right.

"Fiction: 'Walk Gently This Good Earth'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1977 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLV, No. 19, October 1, 1977, p. 1059.