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THE HIAWATHA by David Treuer

THE HIAWATHA

By David Treuer

Pub Date: May 10th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20313-6
Publisher: Picador

A new voice in the Native American literary landscape, Treuer (Little, 1995) returns with a numbingly sorrowful tale of a fratricide that triggered a chain of events and devastated an Indian family already reeling from the accidental death of the boys’ father. Having served ten years for killing his brother Lester, Simon comes back to the decayed Minneapolis neighborhood where he did the deed, and where his mother Betty now gives him less than a warm welcome. In time, Simon learns many things that fill in the gap left by his years away: that one of his sisters died and the other moved far away, never to be heard from; that Lester left a son, Lincoln, whose 16-year-old mother abandoned him in Betty’s arms just after his birth; that Betty never told the boy about his uncle or why he went to prison; that Lincoln’s mother is still in the city, not far away. A job in Simon’s former profession, building the steel frames of the city’s skyscrapers, is out of the question, yet he ekes out a living for a while, until he kills a goose for food, only to be arrested and jailed for it. When he gets out, Betty and Lincoln are gone to the reservation and the house they lived in is being demolished. So he goes there also, where a bit of illegal fishing and an escape from the fish-and-game folks get him lost in the woods with a broken leg. He hobbles back to the city and miraculously winds up with a decent place to live, a job, and a girlfriend—but Lincoln finally learns what his uncle did to his father and comes looking for Simon, setting in motion a last round of tragic mistakes. Motivation for the initial murder is left murky to a frustrating degree, but, overall, this is a story lyrical in its sadness, one demonstrating that most precious and rare of writerly gifts: the ability to reach equally well into both the heart and mind of the reader.