Young Adults Books

THE WHIPPING BOY, by Speer Morgan. Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116. Map. 326 pp., $21.95 cloth. 0-395-67725-4

Oklahoma Territory in the 1890s is the setting of Morgan's fourth novel, and it's his best, involving a flood, a hanging performed in front of a group of orphans, land grabbing, issues of Indian sovereignty, and corruption and desperation at every turn.

The central character is sixteen-year-old Tom Freshour, a mixed-blood Choctaw Indian from the Presbyterian-administered Armstrong Academy, who is sent to work for the Dekker Hardware Company. He is assigned to Jake Jaycox, a salesman who travels the territory collecting the mortgages of small hardware stores for defaulting on their sales of Dekker stock. Freshour and Jaycox, along with Samantha King, a woman from St. Louis with a questionable past, uncover a plot to swindle land from farmers that has its greedy roots in the Dawes Commission.

"The Whipping Boy" is a superb story, rich in plot and characterization, and the whippings endured by Freshour at the Academy are a fitting symbol for those suffered by the Choctaw and other tribes in losing their land to the U.S. Government. Morgan is a writing instructor at the University of Missouri (Columbia) and is the editor of Missouri Review.Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Monday, March 11, 1996 - 11:37:17 AM