Kevin Murphy's Eagle from the Dawn is a historical novel about Lewis and Clark
and the Nez Perce nation. The story is told from the viewpoint of a young man,
Kevin Murphy, who spends his summer before leaving for college with his Uncle
Matt on a ranch in Montana. While there, Kevin and a new acquaintance named Peter,
who is the son of his uncle's partner, adventure out on horseback with bedrolls
and packs to follow the route of Lewis and Clark. This novel is most appropriate
for those in middle school and above.
Eagle from the Dawn contains not one but two main points of conflict for the main character. After receiving a much-loved horse from his uncle as a graduation present, Kevin finds himself in the internal struggle of whether it is appropriate for a human to keep a wild animal in captivity. Kevin deeply loves Tipyahlanah, but Tipyahlanah is a wild mustang that yearns to return to the hills with a nearby wild herd. Can Kevin gain the emotional maturity involved in loving and letting go?
Kevin's other struggle is one of appreciating another's cultural perspective. As a lover of history, Kevin is very excited about following the trail of Lewis and Clark. He has researched these two men and their journey extensively, and he admires them for their courage and perseverance. Peter, Kevin's guide, is a native Nez Perce. His view of Lewis and Clark is much different. Peter views these two men as the beginning of the intrusion and dominance that the Nez Perce would experience at the hands of the white man's government and army. The cultural differences between these two young men can either teach them compassion and understanding or cause great tension. This is an incredible lesson for Christians, as we often struggle to share the gospel with those who have a distinctly different worldview. Can Kevin find a common ground with Peter and an appreciation for his cultural heritage and still maintain his purpose and drive?
It is good to be aware that Peter's perspective stems from being immersed in the Nez Perce culture. Culturally, this Native American tribe, like most, believes in earth worship and a history that views the earth as being millions of years old. Kevin is presented as a typical American. He strives to increase his intellectual knowledge through higher education, and while he is intrigued by the "religion" of the Nez Perce, he is described as having a spiritual apathy. He holds no strong religious convictions himself. Given these two character sketches, I cannot endorse this book as a Christian read; although I do not find it spiritually offensive either.
For those desiring to learn more about the Nez Perce nation or the travels of Lewis and Clark, Arrathoon provides extensive notes and a suggested reading list in the back of the book. Many of the notes provide further insights into the travels of Lewis and Clark and the culture of the Nez Perce people.