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Shelterwood Bets On...


June 2024

I know little about Eastern Oklahoma, and I never have traveled there. But after reading SHELTERWOOD by Lisa Wingate, I would love to see this part of the country.

The book is set in two time frames. In 1909, we meet 11-year-old Olive Augusta Radley, who knows that the two Choctaw girls boarded in their home as wards are not safe around her stepfather. The older girl disappears, and shortly after, Ollie flees to the woods with the younger girl. After the passage of the Dawes Act, which gave every Indian man, woman and child land, the youngest of these inheritors were preyed upon by men who wanted to lay claim to their oil rights. Children were hidden in the woods in places like the Winding Stair Mountains. There they would forage for food and protect one another, setting up their own systems of order in which the older children would watch out for the younger ones.

At this time, Kate Barnard, the first woman to be elected as a state official in Oklahoma, became a fierce protector of these children. Supporting her in her efforts was the Oklahoma Federation of Women’s Clubs. To understand how significant their work was, women did not get the right to vote for a decade more, and the vote was not ratified until 1920!

The second part of the story is set in the same location in 1990. Recently widowed Valerie Boren-Odell is a newly appointed ranger who arrives at Horsethief Trail National Park where she hopes her career can grow as she takes care of her son. But what should be a joyous time with a new park opening is overshadowed by the discovery of a long-hidden burial site of three children in a cave, along with news of a teenage hiker who has gone missing. She ends up investigating what has gone wrong there in the past and in doing so finds herself caught up with the Choctaw Tribal Police, as well as a group that wants to ravage the mountain for their own gain.

The publisher has created a fabulous book club kit for SHELTERWOOD. There is so much there to enhance a book group discussion. And be sure to watch or listen to my interview with Lisa, where we covered a lot of ground.

by Lisa Wingate