MESSENGER BIRD by Dan McCall

MESSENGER BIRD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The latest of McCall's active/sensitive heroes (Triphammer, 1990, etc.) is a young doctor who recalls his two-year tenure among the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico. Even before he recounts the circumstances of his 1971 arrival in Mescalero, McCall's narrator, identifying himself only as Jim, has already launched into the first of a torrent of anecdotes artfully arranged in a pastiche of then-I-sewed-up-that-one medical memoirs. He unfolds in unsparing, often dryly humorous, detail the episode of the suicidal chief who succeeded only in lobotomizing himself, the failing centenarian in need of a good perking up, the cirrhotic old Indian whose family was angered when a priest had the temerity to give her last rites, the mother who reported her dead baby kidnapped, and dozens of others. About halfway through, a sustained plot begins to creep up on Jim, his lover Annie Messenger Bird Lester Mendez--a high- school history teacher by day, a savvy nurse by night--and their indefatigable colleague Dr. Max Rubenstein. Jim realizes that Annie has a malignant melanoma and wrestles with the problem of what to tell her and her teenaged son Silas. Meanwhile, the American Indian Movement stirs up the local tribe, whose own grievances have long been in the capable hands of Silas's grandfather, Chief Barnabas Lester, to a pointless, bloody showdown with insensate federal troops. The early medical anecdotes, with their ring of rough truth, are perfectly calculated to set up McCall's understated, elegiac plot.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-159284-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993