by Thomas King ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1990
In this first novel by Canadian/Native American King, a Native leaves Toronto to return to the town of his origins in Alberta--where he lives through a well-rendered and amusing--though predictable--series of fights, feuds, and schemes. When Will returns to Medicine River for his mother's funeral, Harlan Bigbear wants him to stay on as Medicine River's only Native photographer--but Will likes Toronto and even has a sort of girlfriend there, Susan. Still, Harlan is a force that cannot be long resisted. He is the center of the book ("". . .like a prairie wind. You never knew when he was coming or when he was going to leave""), has a great many interests, and knows everyone in Medicine River. Once King has flashbacked at length to stories of childhood and adolescence, the story--narrated by Will in a tone of understated perplexity--rotates between accounts of Harlan's exploits, portraits of small-town Native types, and Will's growing involvement with Louise, whom Harlan has decided he should marry. The flashbacks contain the usual abuse, depression, and sadness of the reservation, leavened by the exploits of an all-Native basketball team (""Basketball is a great way to forget your problems""); by the stories of Joe Bigbear, Harlan's brother (""so there we were, ten gorgeous women just waiting for us""); and by Bertha Morley's attempts to find a partner through the Center for the Development of Human Potential, a dating service. She finally gets together with Harlan, while even Martha Oldcrow, a ""marriage doctor,"" can't solve Will's dilemma: He passes on Louise but discovers Susan has passed on him. No matter. After a canoe trip and some high jinks, all ends on an upbeat note. King's gentle narrative sags in places, but overall he creates a strong sense of place and a loopy, touching cast of characters--a Canadian/Native American version of the Mayberry of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1990
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1990
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