Soyala: Daughter of the Desert
Based on the archaeological and anthropological record, this story is a vivid and convincing drama depicting the lives of a small clan of ancient puebloans of northern New Mexico. It is set in the thirteenth century, long before Europeans reached the Southwest. The narrative is fresh, alive and fast-paced. The prose is highly polished and readable. Its strong, finely-drawn characters come to life showing us how they faced challenges of climate, landscape and survival. The themes of birth, death, love, hope, courage, fear, suffering and endurance ring true. It is as though the hundreds of years separating their experience from ours disappear. Based on the archaeological record and inspired by what is known about an actual pueblo, it feels incredibly authentic. This multi-generational story explores native American pre-history and the ancient puebloans as they set off on a great migration toward better lives.
Soyala is a magnificent story, brilliantly imagined and skillfully executed on every level. I was completely caught up in it from beginning to end. The author’s intimate depiction of the lives of this small clan of humans back in the middle years of the thirteenth century is immensely powerful, both intellectually and emotionally. -- Tom Hyman, author of Jupiter’s Daughter and Seven Days to Petrograd
Kirkus Review Editorial
I have nothing but praise for this. It’s a magnificent story, brilliantly imagined and skillfully executed on every level. I was completely caught up in the people and their extraordinary lives from beginning to end. From the relatively scant evidence available about the Pueblo Indians of this period in the American Southwest (mostly archeological and anthropological, I assume) you have created a vivid and convincing drama, compelling in every extraordinary detail. Your characters come sharply and engagingly to life on the page and continue to live on, at least in this reader’s mind, long after the last page. Although the story is obviously your invention, it feels incredibly authentic. It’s as if you had actually gone back in time to this place and these people and come back to the present to tell us about them and how they lived their lives.
Your story sticks in the memory because it is about the things in life that truly matter, the things that have shaped humankind’s existence for many thousands of years and continue to shape it today, beneath the elaborate and often irrelevant trappings and diversions of modern civilization: birth and death, love and hope, courage and fear, suffering and endurance. Your intimate depiction of the lives of your small clan of humans back in the middle years of the thirteenth century is both intellectually and emotionally powerful. I think you’ve written a wonderful novel.
Book Review: SOYALA, DAUGHTER OF THE DESERT
Soyala, Daughter of the Desert
By Cindy Burkart Maynard
173 pages, including a short glossary and timeline
Let’s go back almost a millennium to the American southwest and see what the people were like back then. How did they make life work in the pueblos? How did the family structure work? How did they gather their food and prepare it? Were there wars and disease to cope with?
In Cindy Maynard’s book, we learn all of that, and more. Through the life of Soyala, who we meet as a young girl, the reader joins Soyala as she faces everyday life in the time and place mentioned above. The narrative involves four generations of her family, as well as other members of the community – some of whom come and go, affecting Soyala and her fellow inhabitants of the particular pueblo in which they live. In time, conditions demand that Soyala and her group move on to a larger pueblo where they must fit in among a different clan. There is love and loss along the way, and once established with the new clan, there is more. A few twists of joy and tragedy cross Soyala’s path over the years, but there will certainly be no spoilers here.
Ms. Maynard does a brilliant job in illustrating conditions as Soyala experiences them. The skies, the weather conditions, the personalities of the people, and even the strife-ridden situation are deftly described. As Soyala grows into womanhood and then into motherhood and beyond, the reader will meet shamans, hunters, potential suitors for Soyala’s hand, wise folks, and several relatives and village members. Adventure after adventure form Soyala into the person she becomes.
There are some vividly described incidents in the life of Soyala that have me recommend this book for high school age readers and older. The book reads easily, all within the 173 pages, which is a tribute to the author’s concise and specific word choices.
Four Starred Review May 2, 2019
Based on the archaeological and anthropological record, this story is a vivid and convincing drama depicting the lives of a small clan of ancient puebloans of northern New Mexico...This was a very interesting book to read which takes you back in a time that was very simple, but with very complicated trials and tribulations to undertake. I really enjoyed how the book was divided by the different ages of maturing and challenges that Soyala and her family and friends went thru. Learning the difference between Pueblo Indians and Nomadic Indians was very informative also. The Glossary in the back of the book also was great to refer to and learn from. Read more.
Easily transports you to the time and place. The characters are fleshed out just enough to make you care about them. I'd recommend reading the appendix first to get an idea where the story takes place to save yourself wondering. I think this makes for an excellent airport book. It'll hold your attention through a coast to coast flight with no problem. - LucMee