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Cleverly nesting stories within stories and commingling literary forms, literature professor Henry (Michigan's Ferris State) offers a complex, multifaceted view of contemporary Chippewa life through the device of a boy searching for his parents: a lyrical, if somewhat overwrought, debut. Young Oskinaway, living on the reservation in Minnesota with his grandparents, one day asked them to find his mother, who ran off with a trader years before. The elders contact Jake Seed, tribal medicine man, who sends his helper Boozhoo, whose story as he introduces himself triggers a chain of marginally related tales involving a painter, a painted stone, the amputated leg of Four Bears that was lost but found again, an incarcerated Indian who spoke and wrote only in haiku, and a youth who hopped on a horse and skidded into a wintry marsh with the horse dead on top of him, there to be joined by a woman trapped in her car by her massive, dead brother. Of these stories, the one about the leg gains particular prominence; the leg is discovered years after its loss, wrapped in dry ice and hanging in a Minneapolis museum. A lawsuit, pitting the outraged family against white representatives of property and science, ensues before the limb can be returned to the reservation for proper burial. After a few more spins of the storytellers wheel, however, the focus returns to Oskinaway, who learns much about his heritage when Seed finally takes to the vision path to answer his questions. A determinedly nonlinear narrative--a mix of drama and academic discourse--in which the kaleidoscopic effects appeal even in moments when the artifice is especially noticeable. Ultimately, however, the parts prove more substantial than the whole.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
Page count: 236pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma Press