in Canada as:
The Last Heathen
prize-winning blend of history and memoir journeys to the islands
of the South Pacific to explore the bond between faith and magic,
the bizarre influence of Western Culture and the eerie persistence
of the spirit world.
1892, the Bishop of Tasmania set sail for an archipelago of coral
atolls and bubbling volcanoes in the South Pacific with the intent
of rescuing islanders from lives of fear, black magic and cannibalism.
More than a century later his great grandson, Charles Montgomery,
followed the bishop's route through Melanesia, seeking the spirits
and the myths his missionary forebear had sought to destroy.
explored remote shores where gospel and empire never took hold.
He rubbed shoulders with barefoot preachers, sorcerers and gun-toting
rebels, only to discover that the pagan spirits were far more tenacious
than the missionaries imagined. Melanesians had stirred Jesus and
Mary into an already spicy broth of ancestor worship, ghosts, magic,
shark gods and anti-colonial messiahs.
Shark God is the account of Montgomery's journey to uncover
the legacy of the Victorian missionaries. The story is infused with
dashes of anthropology, philosophy and a history thick with Victorian
rogues, sorcery, sexual mischief and murder. But it is grounded
in wry observations of the contrasts of modern Melanesia. This is
a place where villagers pray to the spirit of an American GI for
boatloads of refrigerators and Spam, where Christian militants pray
to crocodiles to destroy their enemies, and where curses are meted
out by wayward monks. We are introduced to a bizarre cast of characters—the
shark worshipper, the soft-talking assassin, the leper prophet—and
their stories reveal the ambiguous and bizarre consequences of the
is inevitably drawn into the very myths he had set out to challenge.
The journey becomes a debate on the nature of magic, myth and faith,
and a metaphor for the transforming power of story.
writing..." -- Publishers Weekly
Shark God is published in the United States by HarperCollins,
and in the United Kingdom by 4th Estate/HarperCollins.
Last Heathen is published in Canada by Douglas & McIntyre.
*Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction
Evans Non-fiction Prize
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