Foreword Reviews' 2013 INDIEDAB Book of the Year Award Finalist
November 26, 2013
Looking for Redfeather by Linda Collison captures all of the emotion and uncertainty of being a teenager, delivered through the practiced and nonjudgmental eye of an experienced writer.
It’s hard to imagine the road trip’s classic sense of isolation and exploration translating to the twenty-first century, with people (and especially teens) linked to each other through smartphones, and the sense of mystery somewhat diminished by the ready availability of Wikipedia and GPS directions. But Linda Collison has incorporated these elements into Looking for Redfeather, creating a story that rings true for the times and keeps the essential feeling of travel and self-exploration intact.
Collison has the wide range of experiences and careers that often make for a good novelist, having worked as a registered nurse and skydiving instructor, among other occupations. Her prior publications range from a guide to Colorado wineries to two nautical adventure books. In Looking for Redfeather, she introduces three teens: Chas, a young man from Baltimore fleeing the reality of his mother’s impending death; LaRoux (née Faith Appleby), a girl out to make a name for herself as a singer and performer; and Ramie Redfeather, a half-Apache man-child who embarks on a search for the father he’s never known. The three meet and band together, searching for Ramie’s father, traveling in Chas’s grandmother’s classic Cadillac, and learning much about themselves.
The book captures all of the emotion and uncertainty of being a teenager, delivered through the practiced and nonjudgmental eye of an experienced writer. Collison shows us the world as seen by teens—filtered through music and in constant threat of overwhelming us by its magnitude: “Audioslave’s music filled his head, and the words to the song ‘Show Me How to Live’ brought tears to his eyes. The night was black, and the stars were bigger than he had ever seen, and there were more of them. It seemed a foreign sky—the night had such depth to it, like he was looking into infinity. He was in danger of falling into the sky.”
There are many references to books, music, movies, and television shows. This aspect of the characters’ vocabularies works well not only to convey the teens’ perceptions, but also to portray the unceasing adolescent search for models and heroes, for a “scene” to fit into, and ultimately for identity.
The writing is unsparing but honest, with several depictions of drug and alcohol use. Looking for Redfeather is the kind of novel parents might be unwilling to recommend to younger or immature teens, but readers who can handle the unflinching details may judge it one of those seminal books that, by giving a wider view of the world, helps to safely deliver teens to adulthood.
Collison’s coming-of-age novel follows three teenagers who leave their homes to try to find themselves and escape less-than-perfect circumstances.
Ramie Redfeather lives with his mother and little brother and longs to find his father, known as Redfeather, a musician who never made it big, though locals recognize him. Trying to catch up with him at a gig in Denver, Ramie hitchhikes from his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., and meets Chas Sweeney, a kid from nearby Baltimore whose mother is on life support. In denial about his dysfunctional family back home, Chas stole his grandmother’s Cadillac to drive across the country. In Denver, they meet up with LaRoux, formerly Faith Appleby, who has run away from her strict religious household to perform in a music contest in Austin. All three characters are well-drawn, and though the circumstances that draw them together seem a bit forced, their relationship feels real. They’re three lost kids, geographically and spiritually, yet they’re specific and recognizable types. Ramie is strong, loyal and keeps to himself. Chas is smart and a bit irritating but boundlessly enthusiastic, and despite his confusion about what to do with his life, he has a good heart. LaRoux is beautiful and talented but flighty. Much to the author’s credit, all of them are believably flawed. At times, though, the narrative gets muddled when the three kids’ stories drift into navel-gazing and away from the plot, but Collison’s prose is nonetheless clean and efficient. The resolutions of Ramie’s and LaRoux’s quests are fairly predictable but still well-laid, though Chas’s story turns out to be the more intriguing one, especially in the end.
Doesn’t pack the fireworks, but that’s not where the story lives—it’s in the day-to-day lives of its well-drawn characters and their crises.
Dec. 17, 2013
"An engaging, well told, often lyrical narrative that never falters." -- Literary Fiction Book Review
Check out Aaron Landon's performance of Looking for Redfeather!