WATERSHED by Percival Everett


Email this review


America's oppressed minorities join forces in this watered-down rehash of Black Panther/American Indian Movement activities--updated to include an image of the sensitive male--from University of California writing prof Everett (see above). Black hydrologist Robert Hawks, fly-fishing his way through an early midlife crisis far from a wacky girlfriend back home in Denver, comes from a line of committed dissenters: His grandfather and father, both physicians, eschewed Christianity while embracing civil rights and humanity, to the point of grandfather having his license revoked for treating a gunshot wound on the sly. So, when a pint-sized Indian hitchhiker in sneakers gets Robert to drop her in rugged terrain with a winter storm coming on, and two FBI agents are found slain in the area shortly thereafter, his impulse is to protect her. This lands him in hot water himself, a situation he only compounds by going to find the woman, Louise Yellow Calf, to ask what she was up to. Robert learns that the US government dumped old biological warfare agents into the area, which are leaking into the Indian reservation watershed, and that the dead agents, one Indian and one black, were trying to warn those in harm's way when they were killed. Louise disappears, and, thinking she's in Denver, Robert returns home determined to understand the nature of commitment as his father and grandfather lived it. After meeting with Louise and other activists, he decides to gather evidence about the dump, and having done that commits himself still further when FBI hostages are taken by Louise's besieged group and Robert is asked to lead a supply run to them--over the terrain he knows better than anyone. Some nice touches of humor and essential humanity, but the ground covered here has few breathtaking vistas--and the main character's low-key transformation fails to stir otherwise oddly tranquil waters.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0807083615
Page count: 202pp
Publisher: Graywolf