CIRCLING by Pamella Hays


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This compelling, multigenerational saga highlights the challenges of negotiating modern and tribal worlds.

Living in Montana, Molly is a wanderer with no ties who’s getting ready to run again. A random, reckless act of kindness brings Blackfeet native Thomas Red Hawk and his young son, Nate, into her life. An unknown man’s brutal sexual assault against Molly—and her confused reaction combined with Red Hawk’s compassion—further binds them as an awkward, multicultural family. Choosing to join Red Hawk’s family on the reservation, Molly never quite fits in; her Blackfeet mother-in-law notes, “I knew…she had walled up her spiritual self, that she would not allow herself to acknowledge the wisdom of our people.” Even the birth of Molly and Red Hawk’s daughter Jasmine isn’t enough to hold everything together, and young Jasmine, having inherited her grandmother’s ability to “see inside,” is aware of the widening chasm between her parents. When tragedy strikes, the family reunites only to divide along new lines. The book’s second part, “The Journey Home,” centers on teenage Jasmine’s story of gritty life on the streets as a runaway, repeating her mother’s wanderlust and finding that she, too, cannot run far or fast enough. Eventually, however, a heartwarming reunion brings the family full circle. The author’s familiarity with and appreciation for the people and terrain are genuine, and the questions raised—what connects people to one another and to culture?—are worthwhile, but the writing doesn’t always rise to the occasion. Detracting from this interesting tale are occasional editing lapses (e.g., “Makes me think of that bumpers sticker”), odd word choices—“Molly plopped down…with a paper plate of the tawdry leftovers”—and awkward moments, as when a dream challenges Jasmine to consider her current life choice of becoming “perhaps a prostitute plying her wares” or “once again become fully human, with all of its risks and fears.” The seemingly random references to Red Hawk as Thomas are jarring and unexplained, especially given he fully embraces his native life.

A strong, intriguing debut that doesn’t quite soar.

Pub Date: March 9th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1466400610
Page count: 262pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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