GOOD THUNDER by John Solensten


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Though weakened by occasional overwriting and an over-upbeat paternity/Community ending, Solensten's fictional debut is a sturdy one. Born to an Indian girl who dies in childbirth, his father unacknowledged, baby Charlie Goodthunder is named and taken in by Nancy White Cloud, a Sioux woman in Pierre, South Dakota. Nancy has lost a child of her own, and her ad hoc adoption of Charlie enrages her husband Eddy so much that he leaves her and goes off to the Rosebus reservation (and, later, a skid-row existence in Minneapolis). Nancy, a legal secretary to a white lawyer in Pierre, is anxious for herself and her boy to escape the Indian bind of low-expectations/lower-realities. But Charlie's environment brands him inescapably: he grows up very much an Indian--via school, prejudice, and, most importantly, his relationship to the land and the river, ironically secured for him by his friendship with a white fishing guide named Magnuson. What plot direction there is here consists of Nancy's boss trying to take over Magnuson's stretch of river for a resort complex. More involving, though, are the scenes of Charlie's flowering-into-consciousness: first sex; rabbit-hunting; an attractive, vivid scene in which he fishes for (wrestles with) paddleheads on the river at night, the river banded with lights and cars and people and walls that pass by as he goes. So, though conventional in its coming-of-age schematics, there's still an often-piercing lyricism to this first novel--as writer Solensten remains continuously alive to Charlie's contradictions.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: State Univ. of New York Press