After all these years, I forgot this novel was based on a true story. Truly amazing and sad, especially knowing that after the woman was finally rescued; she died only a few weeks later—perhaps a mix of exposure to new diseases and the psychological and emotional response to the sudden change.
I love the significance surrounding naming in this book…the girl’s everyday name, Wonapalei, and the magic surrounding her secret name, Karana, which if used too often, can lose its power. The story even plays with that Aesop saying, “No act of human kindness no matter how small is ever wasted”—how an instinct for survival can lead to both companionship and friendship.
Even though this is a middle grade story, it makes for a great companion novel to Pratchett’s Nation and Robinson Crusoe… all three play on that phrase from Donne’s Meditation: “No man’s an island” as well as other little intertextual references, from Karana’s and Mau’s contrary reactions to finding the cave of their ancestors, to Crusoe’s own means of finding companionship and means for survival.