THE LAST OF THE OFOS by Geary Hobson


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paper 0-8165-1959-5 A slender but illuminating debut novel from Cherokee/Chickasaw poet and Oklahoma professor Hobson offers a sympathetic view of a Louisiana man who becomes the last of his kind, with the awful knowledge that no one will ever speak to him in his native tongue again. Looking back on his life from old age, the first years of the 20th century weren’t bad for Thomas Darko. Among other things, brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents all lived in what they called “Ofo Town,” with other, larger Indian groups as neighbors and relatives in good hunting and fishing country along the Mississippi. After dropping out of elementary school, Thomas even started to make a good living, first in the oilfields, then as a bootlegger. But as he prospered, his family, never huge, began to dwindle from a series of tragedies: One brother died in a New Jersey boot camp during the influenza epidemic of 1917, another in a knife fight, and his father’s spirit was crushed by the loss of his sons. Thomas’s reputation for first-rate moonshine during Prohibition extended to Texas and even Chicago, but the glory days ended in a raid in 1933 and he went off to jail. There, his high-maintenance wife Sally left him without a word, taking everything—and then the whole of his remaining family was killed when a freight train hit their truck. On his release he found years of solace in his whiskey, but by WWII, Thomas was sober and with the Marines in the Pacific, where he was his unit’s sole survivor in the assault on Japanese-held Tarawa. An empty time followed, until Smithsonian ethnographers asked him to record his language for posterity; that too proved a hollow endeavor, leaving the last of the Ofos to end his days alone. A compassionate sketch, and deceptively simple quiet study, that manages to put a human face on the sadly logical outcome of a national history of genocide.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8165-1958-7
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000