An Ojibwe writer from northern Minnesota's Leech Lake Reservation debuts with a sad but graceful tale of seven people living in a crumbling housing tract called Poverty. The first 25 or so pages--on the desecration of the Mississippi River and the people's land--may be some of the most depressing ever written, and it takes a little effort to wade through them. It's worth it, though, as the novel then unfolds with delicate human insight and engaging drama. ""Poverty"" is the Kennedy-era housing tract in the corner of the Minnesota reservation. The tract is in a forested area where, long ago, twins Duke and Ellis built a cabin with their pregnant teenage girlfriend, Jeannette. Now in their 70s, Duke and Ellis live in a Pontiac Catalina parked outside the house where Jeannette lives with daughter Celia and Celia's boyfriend, Stan, a Vietnam vet. Also in the house is the six-fingered and mostly silent Little, Celia's son (the father's identity is one of the central dramas here), as well as Donovan, whom the twins found half-frozen in a car crashed nearby. In Poverty's second house live Stan's sister Violet--their father is in prison, their mother fled the reservation long ago--and her daughter, Jackie. The unique bonds these people have to each other are revealed as each character tells his or her story: Stan recounts the night in Vietnam when his best friend was killed; Jeannette her tale of being taken to Iowa as a young girl to serve as maid servant to two elderly white women; and Donovan reveals how Little, brimming with excitement, climbed above Poverty and to his death. This clan forms an odd but tightly knit unit that faces numerous deaths, rapes--of people and of their land--and other hardships, transcending them all. They claim Poverty, and poverty, as theirs, transforming it into a place of beauty that perhaps only they can recognize. A splendid debut that promises great things to come.