Pedophiles outnumber protagonists in this sad, scary title.
The tale opens with longtime tormenter Allen’s explicit, if aborted, attempt to rape 16-year-old Dave with a fishing rod and then goes on to a round of get-back as Dave enlists Ben in a scheme to humiliate the bully. Ben, newly arrived in Durango to help his divorced playwright dad rehearse a Native American theater troupe on the reservation nearby (no nation specified), proves particularly susceptible, as he is hiding a history of being molested (cue flashbacks, with more explicit details) by a child psychiatrist back in New York. A situation in which he barely restrains Dave from raping Allen with a stolen gun, coupled with his discovery about sexual abuse perpetrated by local priests, finally breaks down Ben’s reserve and pitches him into a round of confessions—first to Eagleclaw, an old playwright on the reservation (whose own son turns out to have been another victim of childhood sexual abuse). Except for Eagleclaw, whose formal speech patterns do not contain contractions and who serves in the role of wise Indian elder, the speaking cast is white. Native people are repeatedly portrayed as heavy drinkers. Gurian (Lessons of Lifelong Intimacy, 2015, etc.) incorporates autobiographical elements into a story built not around easy answers but anguished inner arguments and long heart-to-heart and bro-to-bro conversations. Ugly, disturbing, agenda driven…and nightmarishly informative.
May be triggering to some but of use for discussing the cycle of abuse. (introduction, afterword, Q-and-A with author, discussion questions) (Fiction. 14-18)