When the River Sleeps – Book Review

When the River Sleeps – Book Review

Diethono Nakhro

 

Vilie, a guardian of the gwi, the majestic mithuns that walk the enchanting and enchanted forests of Nagaland, sets out on a quest to find the river of his dreams and to wrest from its heart a charmed stone that will give him untold powers.

 

“When the river is asleep, it is completely still. Yet the enchantment of those minutes or hours when it sleeps is so powerful, that it turns the stones in the middle of the river bed into a charm. If you can wrest a stone from the heart of the sleeping river and take it home, it will grant you whatever it is empowered to grant you.”

 

‘When the River Sleeps’ is a classic Easterine Kire where she seamlessly weaves many stories into the story of the main character, in this case Vilie.

 

A man whose soul is tied to the forest in a way that few understood, Vilie had seen the sleeping river in his dreams every month for two years, so much so that it had become an obsession. He finally comes to the decision to go in search of this mysterious river and to ‘catch it’ when it sleeps.

 

Telling the story of Vilie’s journey in her unique and easy style, Easterine Kire brings to life the magic of the forest and the realm of the supernatural which is accepted as a significant part of Naga life. As Vilie treks through the forest in his quest for the ‘heart-stone’, encountering various people, situations and places on the way, you become keenly aware of this ‘other’ power that is everywhere…….in the mountains, the lakes and rivers, trees, birds, and wild animals – a power that can be transferred to chosen people.

 

She also beautifully captures the close relationship and harmony that the Naga people traditionally have with the earth and their reverence of Ukepenuopfü – the birth-spirit, the creator of all.

 

“He tried to think of the rules of hospitality. If he took firewood or gathered herbs from the forest, he should acknowledge the owners. What was it his mother used to say when they had gathered herbs so many years ago? Terhuomia peziemu. Thanks be to the spirits. If he found an animal in his traps and brought it home, she would repeat that. Terhuomia pezie. It was her way of pronouncing a prayer of thanksgiving to the provider, to Ukepenuopfü.”

 

With her easy yet compelling narrative, Kire draws you into a fast disappearing world where rituals and beliefs shape everyday life, while also painting a vivid picture of simple but honest village life, a hard life often but where kindness, generosity and warm hospitality come so spontaneously. The wonders of the earth and stoic characters lead the reader back into the heart of nature and a natural way of life.

 

The writing friendly and conversational, When the River Sleeps is a perfect example of splendid storytelling, something that Easterine Kire rewards her readers with every time.

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