The Investor by Paul C. Ho tells the heartfelt story of Suluk James as he finds his place between his Inupiat culture and the new Western way of life. As a young boy growing up in Noatak, Suluk always felt different than his siblings and peers. He was much smaller in stature and never quite felt as if he belonged. He greatly admires his father, who has abandoned the traditional Inupiaq ways to become a prospector. John James, Suluk’s father, has plans to grow his prospecting business, and he takes great pride in talking to his son about business strategies and future plans. The elder James knew that times were changing for his people, and he was ready to embrace these changes. He had already accepted Christianity and enrolled his children into the missionary school. Most Inupiats, including his own children, were not ready for such changes, and the effects on them were detrimental, including depression, alcoholism, and even suicide.
John James confides in his son that he has found something special.—something that no other man has yet to find—the Jade Mountain. He even shows Suluk a map and a piece of jade as proof. Mr. James heads off on a prospecting journey and never returns. His body is found by other prospectors, and news spreads to Suluk that his father has died. Suluk is devastated by the news. His entire world has turned upside down, and the one person to whom he was most connected is gone. Suluk decides that he must continue his father’s quest to return to Jade Mountain.
Suluk takes his team of dogs and his newest dog, Sos-Sos, on his first journey alone. People beg him and warn him not to go, for fear he may never return, but Suluk continues. He has learned from his father where to shelter and how to protect himself from starvation and cold. What continually disturb him are his nightmares of the red raven. Suluk’s first attempt at finding Jade Mountain is unsuccessful and upon his return, he realizes that he has a lot to learn.
He meets several new characters throughout his journey who help guide him in his search to learn about the business of prospecting and becoming a businessman. He also experiences the joy of true friendship and true love.
The book tells the tale of not only a physical journey, but also an emotional and psychological journey, as Suluk becomes a man and discovers how he can not only be a businessman in the new world, but be an asset to the Inupiat people and other Native Americans in the North. The Investor is a fast-paced read and a touching story of self-discovery. I highly recommend it for young adults and older.
Paul C. Ho