Time to catch up on reviewing books I actually read a few months ago!
I haven't read this since I was a child. I didn't get much out of it then. It's a beautiful book, but seemed frighteningly somber to me. Also, I was (and kind of still am) all about dialogue, and the main character, Karana, spends several years completely alone on an island. So I respected this book, but didn't feel any urge to reread it as a kid.
I reread it as an adult because I've been reading James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me
and am feeling a keen interest in popular representations of Native Americans. I'm impressed that this book is the modern classic it is, because it certainly steers clear of the annoying stereotypes one so often sees. Karana's people aren't unrealistically pure, innocent, selfless people, helpless and pitiful in the face of white invaders. They are the sympathetic characters in a conflict sparked by greedy Russian hunters. (When in doubt, blame the Ruskies.)
And Karana kicks arse in terms of being able to take care of herself entirely on her own. She makes a shelter, learns to bow-hunt, and staves off loneliness by cultivating relationships with awesome wild animals.
Given that living all by myself with no one but otters and the occasional friendly wolf for company is a dream come true for me, I think the only reason I didn't cotton more to this book as a child is that Karana has very little personality. She is strong and occasionally humorous, but I couldn't imagine being or befriending her.
My feelings about this book now are very much what they were when I was young: this is a brilliant, interesting but rather remote story to me. There's a reason it's a modern classic, so do pick it up if you haven't already read it. And read it to your kids on cold winter nights. It'll help you appreciate the luxuries of home and hearth and good warm food.