Morning Girl takes place on a tropical island late in the fifteenth century, where Morning Girl can wake and "watch the ocean or slip into the mango grove," where there is the "rich scent of the large red flowers." It is an island rich with fruit and beautiful with birds and flowers, but it is not a paradise. There are "hungry bugs so small you don't know they're there until they bite you," and storms so violent the rain "was before me and behind me and all around me, a thick crashing wave, and all I knew was water and movement that slammed and hissed and screamed my name," storms that flatten the village.

The setting is realistic, and developed with small but vivid details that help the reader imagine what such an island and its people must have been like before Europeans arrived. We hear of "digging sticks" and "cassava patches," helping us to understand that these are people who are settled and who farm. We hear of the palm leaves that thatch the family house and of the mats the family sleeps on, giving us an idea of domestic architecture, and also a sense that these are people who know how to live with the land and what it has to offer—an important concept in all traditional Native American philosophy. We learn that even violent storms bring some good things. Houses need to be re-roofed, but "the palms were already spread on the ground, perfect for thatch." Coconuts lay on the ground, saving the people the trouble of climbing trees for them. And in...

(The entire section is 495 words.)