Dreamkeepers is subtitled, "A Spirit-Journey into Aboriginal Australia." That's important to emphasize because the spirit-journey is the author's, more so than the Aboriginals.
Harvey Arden is a former editor-writer for National Geographic and co-author of Wisdomkeepers, a book on Native Americans in the United States. In the prologue, he writes,
"I had hoped to garner a few stories from the Dreamtime on this `spirit-journey' of mine into Aboriginal Australia.'" (2)
With that quest clearly stated, he and his guide travel across The Kimberley to seek out and interview a dozen or so Aboriginals to glean from them an understanding of Aboriginal faith and practice, as well as current issues affecting the plight of Aboriginals in Australia today.
Arden is a seasoned journalist and, to his credit, he gives voice to individuals who would not otherwise be heard. This is the strength of the book: The people he interviews are real people with real thoughts and feelings and stories to tell. They deserve to be heard in their own words, and Arden is there to provide the opportunity.
The reader is apt to enjoy Arden's adventures in the bush; his impromptu conversations with Mike, his guide; and, throughout, his humility. He writes,
"I was no anthropologist or scholar or historian ... I wanted to relate to them as human being to human being, ... but no less." (3)
Having said this, the book lacks breadth and depth: The Kimberley is one of many vast areas of Australia, and the spokespersons singled out are but a dozen of hundreds Arden could have just as easily chosen to interview. What's more, the anecdotal nature of the book leaves one hanging. Where is the historical perspective and theological reflection?
The book is what it is - one man's spirit-journey into Aboriginal Australia. If you're willing to accept that, you'll find it worthwhile; if you're expecting more, you might be disappointed.