THE DEATH OF JIM LONEY by James Welch
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THE DEATH OF JIM LONEY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Even a more stunning, gut-cold book than Welch's last, the highly praised Winter in the Blood. Jim Loney is a half-breed living right off the reservation in Harlem, Montana. The only positive achievements of his 35 years seem to be his having starred in high-school basketball and his winning the love of Rhea Davis--a rich Texas girl with an M.A. and a fine heart who's come to teach English for a while in Harlem. Neither of these, though, has he been able to turn to advantage; he's slipping ever deeper into an isolated sadness, needful of but perplexed by the past (why did his mother, then his father, abandon him and his sister when they were children?). ""Somewhere along the line he had started questioning his life and he had lost forever the secret of survival."" Kate, his sister, now a specialist in Indian education for the government, flies in to get Loney to return to Washington, D.C., with her--but he won't go, he can't move. Finally, on a hunting trip, Loney kills, only half-accidentally, his companion, thus fully inviting the fate--being hunted and destroyed--he so longs for. To cinch it, he tells his alcoholic father, Ike, who's been living in Harlem the last 15 years without ever acknowledging Loney as his son, about the killing; Loney knows that Ike, as one more abandonment, is sure to tell the police. Welch's prose is of the Hemingway-Chandler ilk (when hit or shot, people ""sit down hard""), but it is crystalline and unobtrusive. And his small scenes--waiting inside a cold car in a parking lot a whole afternoon for a delayed plane; prying up a dead dog from the ground where it's frozen stuck; crumbling drying pieces of processed cheese during a conversation; bar behavior--are indelible. A brilliant, chill, dignified piece of work, this harrowing novel establishes Welch without question as one of those few writers of classical stature who tells us about the American West.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
ISBN: 0143105183
Publisher: Harper & Row