Thomas King is a writer of plainspoken poetry and comic poignancy. His new novel is a warm and magical story of family secrets and growing up, of a summer in the life of Truth and Bright Water, towns separated by a river that runs between Montana and an Alberta Indian reservation. It opens with a mysterious woman throwing things into the river out of a suitcase -- then jumping in after. Tecumseh and his cousin Lum see, and go to help, but she and her truck have disappeared. Other mysteries also puzzle Tecumseh -- if his mom will take his dad back; if Auntie Cassie is home to stay this time; why no one protects Lum from his father's rages. Then Tecumseh gets a job helping an artist -- Bright Water's most famous son -- with the project of a lifetime. As Truth and Bright Water prepare for the Indian Days festival, their secrets come together in a climax of tragedy, reconciliation, and love. "King is equally at home with his vivid, often comic characters and with the vibrant natural world in which their dramas are played out." -- People
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A masterful tale that combines the wit of Sherman Alexie with the old-fashioned storytelling of Olive Ann Burns.When Tecumseh and older cousin Lum witness a woman throwing a suitcase from a cliff into the Shield River, and then following it with herself, the small mysteries begin. The body is found, the suitcase not. Then Soldier, Tecumseh's dog and best friend, finds a child's skull with a hole and a red ribbon. Son of a practical mother and a dreaming, sometimes drinking, mostly scheming father, Tecumseh lives in the contemporary flux made up of the two towns of Truth and Brightwater, one in Montana and one in Canada-and one an Indian reservation-separated by the glacial Shield River. He also lives in his own flux between childhood and adulthood, and in another between his separated parents. Dad augments his living as a carpenter, with schemes no odder than the government's-smuggling hazardous bio-waste across the border, for example-and Mom's a beautician. During the long days of summer, Tecumseh wanders back and forth between them, Soldier nearly always at his side. Lum is his second best friend, a top-flight runner in training for the contest that will cap the annual end-of-summer Indian Days Festival. Tecumseh's aunt, Cassie, makes one of her many returns, but this time, mysteriously, she doesn't leave (together, she and Mom carry a multitude of secrets). Also returning is Monroe Swimmer, Famous Indian Artist, the reservation's most notable son and once a close friend of Tecumseh's father. Tecumseh takes a "job" with Monroe, who has bought the old Methodist church and is painting it-a magical trompe l'oeil-into oblivion. As mysteries unfold, so does a loving portrait of small-town life, both on and off the reservation, but not in the way we're accustomed to seeing in contemporary Native American fiction: King (Green Grass, Running Water, 1993), more interested in being human first and Indian second, accomplishes his aims without "characters" of mystic eccentricity, violent guilt, racism and self-loathing, and alcoholism being upfront and center. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
In this winning bildungsroman, King (Green Grass, Running Water) demonstrates once again his extraordinarily moving vision of contemporary Native America. The book follows the relationship between two boys, narrator Tecumseh and Lum, and the story, set in motion by a mystery, takes place among Blackfoot Indians living on the U.S./Canadian border in two towns separated by the Shield river (Truth is in Montana, and Bright Water is on an Ottawa Indian reservation). The youths witness a woman dump the contents of a suitcase off a river bluff and then jump into the abyss herself, but by the time they get to the spot, she's nowhere to be seen. Other mysteries are created by significant homecomings: Tecumseh's free-spirited, world-traveling Aunt Cassie is in town, but no one will tell Tecumseh why; and "famous Indian artist" Monroe Swimmer buys the old mission church on the reservation and moves in. Swimmer is a trickster who paints his hilltop abode in trompe l'oeil clouds and sky and sets artificial buffalo around it, so that to the naked eye below, it's almost invisible. Closer in tone to King's debut, Medicine River, than to the antics of Green Grass, Running Water, this book exhibits the author's keen powers of observation and captures the essence of reservation life with dark humor and cutting satire. But the wry humor mediates and belies desperation, with 15-year-old Tecumseh fixated on getting his mother to reconcile with his dreamy but shiftless father. All plots come together, some in tragedy, and all mysteries are solved as Indian Days approaches. This sharp-edged novel is also King's sweetest; there's plenty of magic, yet it's also his most realistic book thus far. Readers familiar with King's work will revel in it, while new readers will discover his extraordinary narrative power. Agent, Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Sept.)
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