A lyrical tale of life on the Rez.
British-born Fuller (Leaving Before the Rains Come, 2015, etc.), who has written several captivating memoirs about growing up in Africa as well as a biography, of sorts, about the short life of a cowboy, makes her fiction debut with a story set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Now living in Wyoming, Fuller visited the reservation in 2011 to witness the annual commemoration of the murder of Crazy Horse, where she felt an “unexpected homecoming.” In short chapters and spare language, Fuller spins a narrative that reads like a parable about two markedly different cousins, born within a month of each other: the contemplative Rick Overlooking Horse, “a child, and then a man, of shockingly few words”; and the volatile You Choose Watson, “half Cowboy, half Indian,” and all trouble. Severely burned by friendly fire when he was in the Army, Rick Overlooking Horse (as in a fairy tale, Fuller always refers to him by his full name) returned home and moved far out in the desert, refusing his military pension or disability allowance, which he called “the diseased currency of the White Man.” Eking out a living selling herbal medicine, he earned a reputation as a sage. When people came to him “with their wounded hearts and curdled souls,” he gently guided them “out of all the noisy unbecoming we do between birth and death.” Rick Overlooking Horse did not become the Lakota Oglala’s shaman or chief: he “simply became.” You Choose, though, boiled with anger: “it was as if everything that had happened to him—or failed to happen to him—turned toxic in his brain, flooded his veins with urgency.” Not surprisingly, he ends up in prison. Twins orphaned at birth; You Choose’s unexpected release from jail; a protest siege; and a death propel a plot that gets overly complicated at the end. But Fuller is interested less in events than kinship (“rocks are grandfathers, plants are nations”), forgiveness, and “mild spiritual epiphanies.”
A tender, wry homage to Native American wisdom and lore.