Saint Jean de Brebeuf--also known as Echon--is one of my all-time favorite saints. A towering, masculine figure, he was also a world-class linguist of his time as well as a man of incredible courage and sanctity. So when I received this little book, I was psyched. I was also a little nervous--would a fictional account for younger readers do justice to this amazing model of Christian manhood?
I needn’t have feared. Cross Among the Tomahawks is a well-written and engrossing tale of the period of first contact between the pagan Indian tribes of the Saint Lawrence valley and the Christian French missionaries. Centering on the life of a young Huron named Tsiko, the tale is fast-moving and engaging. Having studied the Jesuit Relations of the Canadian missions in great detail, I can confirm that the history is accurate, making this a great introduction for young readers to the era of exploration and the early missions. The lives and deaths of many of the Jesuit martyrs are described, and the author does not shy away from an account of the awful, though triumphant martyrdom of Brebeuf, sparing little detail.
My criticisms of this book are both very minor: I thought the dialog could have been more artfully executed. One of the most delightful things about the Jesuit Relations are the conversations the Jesuits record between themselves and the Indians. Lomask seems to have missed some of this. Also, I found Lomask’s portrayal of Charles Huault de Montmagny to be unnecessarily critical. “Great Mountain” was a much more impressive historical figure than Lomask presents. For a brief record of his life and acts while governor of New France, see this article in Catholic Men's Quarterly:
Behold the Militant Catholic Man...Charles Huault de Montmagny: Onontio
But these faults aside, this book is fantastic introduction to early colonial history and a fine account of the exemplary life and death of Jean de Brebeuf--a saint for all the ages.