By Donald Everett Axinn
In 1940, an interfaith or inter-culture couple was a completely taboo thing. Today, it is almost trendy to cross the streams of culture and religion, producing a new generation of individuals who are more ethnically diverse—yet sometimes, perhaps, unable to hold on to one particular thing and say, “Mine.”
Donald Everett Axinn’s newest novel, Allan, Burning, centers on one example of this trend. Allan Daniels is an architect, married with two children, who loves to soar through the clear skies in a Cessna. His father is Jewish, his mother a Miccosukee American Indian. Allan is completely assimilated into Westernized culture, knowing nothing of his Miccosukee heritage, and not wanting to.
After his wife unexpectedly tells him she wants a separation, possibly even a divorce, Allan arranges a trip to Key West to try and salvage his marriage. He decides to fly down from Long Island on his own, but the engine malfunctions in midair, causing Allan to crash-land in the Florida Everglades. Helped by a young American Indian, our protagonist is taken on a journey that leads him to question everything he stands for. Through an intense ordeal involving the local police and a suspected murder, Allan is forced to confront his Miccosukee heritage head-on, in effect discovering his true self and embracing his native birthright.
Mr. Axinn has created a fairly well-crafted tale in Allan, Burning, filled with plenty of thrills and romance. The story is engaging, and hits the necessary beats. Allan’s character is well-fleshed-out, and it becomes very easy for the reader to become attached to him and truly feel for him.
But there are some head-scratchers. The reasoning behind why Allan’s wife, Joyce, wants a separation is never made perfectly clear. She is simply unhappy with the marriage, but never explicitly says why. Every conversation Allan has with her is incredibly one-sided emotionally, and Joyce comes off as being completely coldhearted. This may, of course, have been Mr. Axinn’s intent: to present the issue of a marriage falling apart from one particular viewpoint.
Either way, at its core, Allan, Burning is a story about remembering one’s roots. Away from everything else, Allan’s journey is one of self-discovery and heritage. Walt Disney said, “Or heritage and ideals, our code and standards—the things we live by and teach our children—are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”
Without heritage, without remembering who we are—we are but empty shells going about the motions of life as culture dictates.