Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 391
Shaman Winter is part of a quartet of books (it's the third) featuring the protagonist Sonny Baca and the villain, Raven. Sonny is of this world—a former high school teacher, divorced—but has roots in a culture that stretches back through the history of New Mexico and Albuquerque. Sonny is connected not only to the people of that region, but the land and animals.
Characters that appear in Shaman Winter also include Rita, his love interest, and Don Elisio, a neighbor, mentor and father figure. Sonny's spirit guide is the coyote. The setting is evoked in the following quote: "The people remembered their prayers and ceremonies [and . . . ] still kept the sacred calendar of their ancestors . . . " (p. 102)
Though the plot takes place in modern-day New Mexico, their is an otherworldly parallel realm of the spirit world. Don Elisio explains, "Symbols that need to be interpreted" (4) are part of everyday life, and part of Sonny's journey as a shaman.
Also near the beginning of the story, while Sonny is recovering, he begins to do research into his native land, asking "Where does the history of New Mexico begin?" to Lorenza, who replies, "History belongs to the conquerers" (24).
When Sonny encounters the evil Raven, the setting is described as, "the footprints of the assassin [Raven] were red insignias leading down the hallway. Footsteps of the devil" (79).
Much of this novel involves Sonny trying to get his bearings, to create a bridge between western culture and the spiritual shaman realm, and to lear n how to navigate the dream world. Halfway through the book, his mentor Don Elisio says, "You have the gift, Sonny, now you have to develop the power." (128)
Elisio also gives Sonny (and the reader) this information shortly thereafter, "We have been on the earth a long time. We carry the clarity . . . in our hearts. It is our responsibility not to let the darkness win" (129).
Elisio tells Sonny in the first chapter that he can master dreams, and Sonny replies, "Let's see," he whispered, wetting the tip of his pencil with his tongue. . . . 'In the dream, I was a Spanish soldier named Andres Vaca . . . " (2)
The quotes usually tell us that Sonny, who is now wheelchair bound in real life, is finding ways to use the power of his dreaming to solve real-world problems; in some dreams he is able to walk.
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