Summary of Plot, Characters and Setting
Told with sensitivity toward the descendents of our Native American forefathers, Symphony of Spirits is a heart-warming story of a courageous, determined, clever and loving family that works together to defeat the ruthless leader of a terrorist band. It is a story of an old man and his family and their faith in the forces of nature to guide and help them.
Snapping Turtle’s life has come to a stop since his wife died. The Lenni Lenape living with this paternal figure in his Seventeenth Century village near the junction of the Delaware River and the Atlantic Ocean have learned to ignore the old man because he does not respond to their kindness. He lives in his dreams of his wife and of their happy life together and ignores everything around him until his persistent grandson, Osprey, persuades him to take him fishing again. The love they share is a guiding force that helps bring the family back together after their family is attacked.
As he is regaining his sense of family while fishing with Osprey his grandson, a rogue band of Minqua warriors, led by a ruthless predator, called Gamek, kill his son-in-law and kidnap his daughter and granddaughter. When Osprey’s uncles race off in the wrong direction looking for the murders of Osprey’s father, Snapping Turtle discovers the bear clawed tracks of Gamek and decides to leave alone to rescue his daughter and granddaughter in spite of Osprey’s pleas to join in the search. Afraid to take Osprey with him and armed with only his wits, Snapping Turtle begins the hunt alone, leaving Osprey in misery. Handicapped by age and months of inactivity, Snapping Turtle begins a classic journey through the forests along the Delaware River to free his family from slavery.
The Manit’towuk, unseen spirits, know Snapping Turtle needs Osprey’s help, and so they enlighten Osprey with a dream to bring them together again to rescue their family. Throughout the story, the Manit’towuk appear to Snapping Turtle and his grandson in the form of birds and present them with choices that will lead them to success if they choose correctly. To succeed they need to have faith in the Manit’towuk.
After dreaming of a white swan and believing it is an omen, Osprey, a fourteen- year-old, runs away from his village to help his grandfather. He knows he is disobeying, but his dream returns too often for him to deny it. His inexperience leads him right into the enemy’s trap. With one more problem for Snapping Turtle to carry, he prays to the Manit’towuk and sets out to free his grandson. Believing the forces of nature have sent Osprey to him for a reason, Snapping Turtle rescues his grandson, and together they begin the pursuit of Gamek and the release of their family.
Gamek, who frightens people into believing he is the son of a river spirit, is the most evil person Snapping Turtle has ever faced. Human life means nothing to Gamek. To appease his anger he can slice open the stomach of a slave and feed the organs to the dogs while the victim lives, and he can rape his captives repeatedly. Every village Snapping Turtle visits while chasing Gamek lives in fear of him for they too have suffered his brutality. He is bigger than life for he can feel Snapping Turtle’s presence even though he can’t see him. He can seethe with the power of a monster even when he is wounded.
Waterlily and Sunflower, Snapping Turtle’s daughter and granddaughter, endure physical torture and the possibility of never being rescued because deep down inside they believe their family will not forsake them. Waterlily does not know her husband has been killed until her father finds her inside Gamek’s palisade. His death on top of everything else plagues her because she is carrying Gamek’s unborn child. Sunflower is also hurt repeatedly, but her spirit remains whole even though she too is pregnant.
After Snapping Turtle enters Gamek’s palisade disguised as a slave, the suspense peaks, and the cat and mouse game of who will survive unfolds. Out numbered and trapped, Snapping Turtle out wits and destroys Gamek, leaving the palisade in chaos. After the final confrontation, Snapping Turtle escapes across the Delaware with his family and thirty other slaves to begin the long journey home.
Songbird, another of Gamek’s slaves, keeps the spirits of the other slaves uplifted with her music. She sings to them everyday and encourages them to join her. Without her most of them would have died or lost their sanity. Her closeness to Osprey and Sunflower helps them endure and begin a new life after their escape. Her wisdom aids Snapping Turtle as he begins building a new village with thirty former slaves who do not know how to live on their own.
Throughout his struggle he reaches out to his wife in his dreams for comfort and guidance. She is his conscience and mentor. He looks for her in his dreams and finds her on the beach where they had spent their lives together. Her vision like those of the Manit’towuk comforts and guides him when he is overwhelmed with problems.
Throughout his struggles, Osprey helps his grandfather. Their affection for one another helps them overcome evil and rebuild the lives of the former slaves. Osprey falls in love with Songbird. Although she is three years older than him, their affection for one another grows, as she becomes a spiritual leader of the group. A bittersweet ending leaves the community on the right path to a better future with Osprey and Songbird as their leaders.
Book’s Appeal and Targeted Audience
This story will appeal to those who enjoy reading about Native American family members struggling to protect one another and to pass that strength on to their descendents. The main character, Snapping Turtle, is a timeless, archetypal father figure whose story reads like a legend. Snapping Turtle is the ideal, self-sacrificing patriarch who loves his wife and family. His character inspires older people who still want to be heroes and young people who love their grandparents. Tragic as Snapping Turtle’s death might be, his entrance into an afterlife with his wife, and the promise of Osprey and Songbird leading the village into a secure future completes the cycle. In addition the novel encourages those who enjoy reading about people who begin again after they believe they have lost everything. Furthermore, it will appeal to man’s need to believe in a spiritual existence. It will also help those who want to transcend their preoccupation with day-to-day struggles by opening their senses to the natural world.
Marion and Jim love their freedom and never accepted the idea that it can’t be done. People told them that getting married so young was stupid; getting an education was a waste of time; building a sailboat was foolish; contracting their own home was impossible; retiring at fifty-six was irresponsible, and getting published without an agent was a pipe dream. They didn’t listen to them and did everything they said couldn’t be done.
Raised in Watchung, New Jersey, they spent their formative years exploring the beauty and majesty of the coastal beaches and inland forests. They were childhood sweethearts at Watchung Hills Regional High School, who married right after graduation and have been married for forty-five years, even though people said it wouldn’t last. They took turns putting each other through college while raising two children. Jim earned his B.A. from the University of Dubuque in Iowa and his M.A.T. from Rockford College in Illinois. Marion earned her B.S. from Rockford College also. Jim taught high school English at Winnebago High School for three years and in Rockford at Guilford for twenty-nine years before he retired to write. Marion taught fourth and fifth grades for twenty-one years in the Kinnikinnick School District. While teaching and raising a family, they enjoyed traveling, hiking, camping, skiing, sailing, fishing, gardening, reading and writing. Now that they are retired, they have time to pursue a life long dream of becoming professional writers. Throughout their lives they have enjoyed writing with their students and with their peers in writing groups like Peninsula Writers of Michigan and their own writing group, Prairie Writers of Illinois. Marion is also an active member of the Fortnightly organization in Beloit, a group that works to keep women’s minds active studying literature, history, and art.
They volunteer for the Natural Land Institute, an organization designed to restore, preserve, and protect wildlife areas. They both serve on the Education Committee of NLI and work at the Nygren Wetland Preserve. Marion is a member of the NLI Board of Trustees and the chairperson of the Education committee. In addition, Marion is a member Seedlings Garden Club and serves as secretary for the Council of Rockford Gardeners.
Julie Harshbarger their granddaughter, a college art student, designed the cover for their novel. She was also the kicker for the Rockford College football team who set their conference record by being the first woman athlete to score a point after touchdown in their division. Laurie Applegate, their daughter who is a Web developer and consultant, helped Julie with technical aspects of producing the cover. Their son Jeff Applegate, who has also helped them with his computer knowledge, lives in Barneveld, Wisconsin with his wife Erika and his two sons, Bennett and Aedan.
Symphony of Spirits is their first published book.