“I looked all around me at the foreign world I’d entered
by way of a letter, an envelope, and a stamp.”
I have spent many years studying literature. I have read King and felt frightened. I have read Sparks and had my heart-string tugged. But Linda Hogan’s novel, Solar Storms presented an unfamiliar foreign feeling. It made me question my own identity and connection to my past. It made me aware of minute details around me in the environment and forced me to think deeply, in an emotional way, about the world I live in.
I do not wish to attempt to selfishly take this book upon myself, but I feel I need to thank Hogan for crafting a character like Angel. She was stunning to read about and to follow along on her journey. The quote at the beginning stuck out to me because her past has been something that haunted her and that left her unable to come into the women she is, towards the end of the book. It was such a simple act of writing a letter to Agnes that allowed her to begin her journey into self-discovery and building family connections. The uniqueness of each of the women– Dora Rouge, Agnes, Bush, and Hannah—that Angel meets and develops relationships with allows her to gain more and more about herself. The qualities that each poses truly strengthen her and teach her many things. I admire the way she has formatted her journey with each and the lessons presented.
The way Hogan present the lessons that begin at Adam’s Rib forces the reader to have a haunting sense of sympathy for Angel. Her arrival to this new world–even though it is her history and the trace of her ancestry—is shockingly foreign to her, but becomes her home. It is inspiring the way the reader is able to see her become more and more comfortable and confident in her native skin. I think it was extremely effective to have the scar be the trigger of the questions about her past but lose its importance as she becomes accustomed to life with the land and water.
The human world becomes less and less a focus and Angel sees how these women do not let mankind destroy who they are. “The captive lives that help most humans could not hold them.” I never thought about human lives being captive, but in the modern era, it is very true. With technology and all of the challenges with politics, race, and identity markers, all issues mankind had made for himself, I can understand what Hogan is trying to convey. A sense of admiration comes from seeing her characters fight against this force.
“I think she had the brilliant soul of an animal, that she lived somewhere between the human world and theirs.” Angel is talking about Bush in this quote. I have a slight push back here because I feel like a text that wishes to address environmental concern should not explicitly say that the two worlds are separate. I feel Angel experiences a collision of the two worlds and then peacefully they become one. I think the way Hogan speaks of the human world is similar, if not the same as how she speaks of the natural world.Showing the lives of characters like Bush that live off the grid and one with the land, and having Angel go through the process of respecting and enjoying the lifestyle is eye-opening. How she sees herself is honorable.
“Me, I was more the element of air, light and invisible, moving from place to place.”
Hogan then goes on to devises strong parallels between Angel’s human life and the natural world. I think that the novel does work to build a cohesion between the two. Using powerful imagery and poetic language helps the reader to build this connection that her characters are. Towards the end Angel sees The Fat Eaters land through the triumph it has faced through climate conditions and the destruction due to man. “It was a raw and scarred place, a land that had learned to survive, even thrive, on harshness…Like me, it was native land and it had survived.” I think this courage could only have been found through self-inquiry and connection with the earth. Knowing your surroundings and your importance is key. Angel is able to learn these things and work towards keeping the land intact. Until it becomes out of her control.
When these women begin to learn the displacement of their water ways and the way mankind has altered the geography of their land due to the dams and hydroelectrical power sources, they are saddened and it causes a larger struggle for them in their journey to The Fat Eaters. When Angel returns to Adam’s Rib and find even more destruction to the place she found herself in and came to love, she is heartbroken. Hogan does well at fulfilling a sense hope when we hear the results of the natives speaking up to stop the destruction is granted. But, she still forces the reader to question the destruction mankind has when they seem themselves apart from the natural world.
“Decisions are made in a person’s life by small moments of knowing, each moment opening until, like pieces of a quilt, one say everything comes together in a precise, clear knowing.”