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THE NIGHT THE WHITE DEER DIED by Gary Paulsen

THE NIGHT THE WHITE DEER DIED

by Gary Paulsen

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0385742355
Publisher: Delacorte

One of Paulsen's earliest novels (it received very limited distribution in 1978): a romantic, unusual love story that presages his later strengths--and weaknesses. Almost totally isolated after she and her sculptor mother move to a small New Mexican town where the other high-school students are Chicanos whose social customs exclude her, Janet has a recurring dream: an Indian shoots an arrow at a deer, an arrow that is interrupted by her waking. Perhaps because the dream's elusive meaning haunts her (Is the Indian hungry? Whose side is she on?), Janet is fascinated by an old drunken Indian who hangs out in the plaza, befriends him, and (to his astonishment and her mother's initial dismay) brings him home. As their tentative, prickly relationship develops, he takes her to his pueblo but doesn't ask her in, brings her presents, serenades her, and finally leads her into the mountains, following a traditional Indian courting ritual--then sends her home alone, to complete her dream at last. Though not very credible--the mother's fairly calm acceptance of their association is particularly implausible--and though Janet's yearning after this noble reprobate smacks of male fantasy, the story does have the charm of a unique, idyllic love between an honest fallen man and a caring, young girl of another culture. The setting and its people are entirely realized; the rounding, repetitive style is all Paulsen. For his fans, well worth reading.