Written by Lee Nelson
Published by Council Press
Review by Paula Day
Fans of Mark Twain rejoice. The novel Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians was begun by Mark Twain in 1885 and finished by Lee Nelson, and that is something to sing about.
The story revives some of our favorite Twain characters—Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Jim—though it takes on more mature themes than one might expect from a Twain novel—the rape of a white girl by Native Americans. In his Author’s Note, Lee Nelson speculates that perhaps that was why Twain was unable to finish the novel: he was unsure how to handle such a delicate issue.
Where Twain’s part of the story ends suddenly in the middle of a sentence on page 56, Lee Nelson slips easily and largely unnoticed into the story. Nelson uses Huck’s first-person narrative to describe the story as Huck, Tom, and Jim head west and meet the Mills family. A group of Native Americans begin as friends but then slaughter most of the Mills family and kidnap Jim and the two Mills daughters. Huck, Tom, and Brace, the fiancé of one of the kidnapped girls, race to rescue the kidnapped girls and Jim. Lee Nelson’s part of the story is so seamless in its compatibility with Twain’s that if it were not denoted for us by the ellipsis on page 56, we would be hard pressed to see where Twain ended and Nelson began. It is like having a whole new Twain novel to discover, thanks to Lee Nelson.
Lee Nelson deserves five quills just for the courage it takes to finish a story begun by American icon Mark Twain in an age when everyone is a critic. In his Author’s Note, Nelson addresses the “How dare you?” critics by stating that the novel is simply what it appears to be—the finishing of a story begun by a much-loved author by an adoring fan. This is not a novel for scholars but a novel for fans. Those looking for a commentary on Twain or a critical analysis of his work will be disappointed. Those who love Twain for his humor and his social commentary will be glad they read Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians.
Paula Day is the Review Editor of The Copperfield Review and the Managing Editor of Copperfield Press. She lives in Los Angeles, California.