Matcheck, Diane. The Sacrifice. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998. ISBN 0-3743-6378-1. $16.00. 198 pp. A 6+ FI Reviewed by Wendy Bishop Matcheck's first novel uses graphic detail to instance the unmerciful bloodshed of the Morning Star Sacrifice, a ceremony performed by the Pawnee tribe for whom the observance is religious in nature and vital to their survival. A girl is born with a twin brother. The mother dies in childbirth, and later the boy also dies when he is trampled by horses. It had been prophesied that one of the twins would die young, and the other would become a great leader among the Apsaalooka (Crow) Indians. The father, believing his son's death to be an accident, cannot believe his daughter will become the destined leader. She is determined to prove him wrong by convincing her people that she, not her brother, is the “great one.” At first, she has no respect for animals but delights in killing them to prove she can be a great warrior. However, the story takes a different turn when she is captured by the Pawnee tribe, and her own life is on the line. She remembers having heard from some Shoshone traders that “the Pawnee cut out the hearts of captive girls.” Her terror diminishes as these foreigners treat her with an unfamiliar respect. She cares deeply for one in particular, Wolfstar, the bundle keeper, who later proves his loyalty and helps her to survive. This is a story about love and sacrifice, a story about the value of human life and the complexities behind giving and taking a life. Although the blood and gore may be offensive to some young readers, they cannot be kept from evaluating and measuring the cost of true friendship.
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