Coyote and Moon together created the world, and Coyote shaped a man and a woman to live in it. From their union came a boy named Tali Nokhati, “Two Feet”, adored by his parents and divine grandparent-figures alike. But when tragedy strikes his family, he must strike out on his own, travelling southward to find more people like himself. Along the way, he makes friends with creatures of all kinds, experiences love, suffering, priceless gifts and devastating loss.
This story reads like a classic folk tale from Native literature, but crosses a great many cultural, geographical, and tribal boundaries. It goes a bit beyond even the normal folk-tale compression of space and time – beginning in the North, with Tali Nokhati befriending a polar bear mother and her cub, the tale leads us eventually down as far south as the Inca Empire and its great cities and palaces, in just one lifetime. Humans are treated as just another sort of person in an interconnected web of sentient living things who all interact, feed off of each other, give each other gifts, and share their perspectives on the universe – standard operating procedure for folk tales, and handled reasonably effectively here.
There are some heartwarming moments – and some sorrowful moments, as well. Sometimes these involve characters making wrong moral choices for which they are almost immediately punished, and sometimes, characters suffer terribly simply from ordinary mischance or hardship, but learn to persist and thrive nonetheless. The tale balances nicely the fanciful demands of the folk tale with the core of real-life wisdom that every true folk tale has at its heart. There are morals to the story, as there are to any good folk tale, but they are an organic part of the tale, not forced or intrusive. However, the story could be improved with a bit of editing – there are enough errors of grammar and word usage to be noticeable (and at least one pesky factual error, as Tali and his polar bear friends encounter partidges, foxes…and penguins, who do not belong in the same hemisphere as the others).
TALI NOKHATI: THE GREAT CROSSING is a folk tale written large – covering more ground and cultural range than most such tales, but retaining a classic feel and a solid heart.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader