GHOST DANCES by Josh Garrett-Davis


Proving Up on the Great Plains
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A young man charts the geography of his tumultuous childhood against the expansive backdrop of the Great Plains.

After his parents divorced, Garrett-Davis’ life was suddenly split between Pierre, S.D., and Portland, Ore. He spent much of his early years not only trying to process the abrupt dissolution of his family, but also keeping the secret of his mother’s lesbianism from the inherent backlash of South Dakota’s conservative culture. For years, the state’s right-wing governor, Bill Janklow, loomed like a flesh-and-bone boogeyman in the author’s mind. Despite the old hostilities, Garrett-Davis finds significant meaning in his home state’s “landscape of motion” and its long history of transient personalities. Deep sojourns into the weight and significance of nascent punk-rock record collections happily exist alongside intense observations about the demise of the great bison herds and even efforts to restart the Pleistocene epoch. Such meditations reach back further still, to the 65-million-year-old fossilized bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Sue unearthed on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in 1990. Hiding a mother’s true identity, enduring a father’s simmering hostility and resisting South Dakota’s often oppressive culture undoubtedly made life hard for the author in his intensely introspective youth. After becoming firmly established in his new life in the East, Garrett-Davis nevertheless finds himself gazing at the Bronx Zoo's captive bison, struggling to grasp the narrative of his own life on the Great Plains. He largely succeeds, recognizing that seemingly opposite concepts of leaving and returning, embracing and rejecting, building and destroying may not be as mutually exclusive as they seem.

Occasionally uneven in the narrative flow, but mostly profound and enjoyable reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-19984-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2012


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