Anna, Like Thunder
Peggy Herring, 384 pgs, Brindle & Glass, brindleandglass.com, $22
In 1808, the St. Nikolai, a Russian ship, crashed on the coast of Washington state, stranding 22 Russians, one of which was Anna Petrovna Bulygia, 18-year-old amateur astronomer and wife to the ship’s navigator. According to historical records, they were enslaved by Indigenous peoples. These are all the historical records that Peggy Herring has to craft Anna’s story in Anna, Like Thunder. As months pass, Anna, separated from her family and home, begins to learn the customs of the Indigenous peoples she lives and works with — and grows to love them.
Anna, who begins the novel very childlike, naïve and focused only on herself, experiences a year and half of growth and critical reflection. When she is finally reunited with her husband and other crewmembers, her new-found love for the land and the peoples that inhabit it are all too apparent. After her husband mentions the fat seals he and others go hunting for, he salivates on the thought of Russians hunting every last seal. Anna reflects on the horrible impact that it would have on the Indigenous peoples, thinking to herself, “where would they get the shells and teeth and claws and whiskers and skins and stomachs and intestines — to make their knives and tools…” And more importantly “What would they eat instead?” Through Anna’s emotional narrations and personal journey, Herring crafts a page-turner that does not disappoint.