THUNDER DREAMER by Ron Robinson

THUNDER DREAMER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Episodic, funny first novel about a feckless teenager and an irascible escapee from a nursing home, set in the Black Hills in 1980. Rodney Deuce, recent high school graduate, takes a job as orderly in a nursing home: Not much is available in Rapid City, South Dakota, and he's too poor for college. A virgin, he falls in love with every woman he meets, including one of his supervisors, the lovely Nurse Stephenson. One of the residents, Daniel O. Quick, advises him to tell the nurse he's impotent, but Rodney gets it wrong, with hilarious results, having assumed that Rodney said ""important."" His bad luck worsens when he takes Quick on holiday and the old man holds up a liquor store. At gunpoint, Quick forces Rodney to drive him into the Badlands, and the two have a series of picaresque adventures stealing cars, hoodwinking German tourists, visiting a brothel, dodging mad motorcyclists, and, most uproariously, acting in a wildly inaccurate Wild West pageant. Meanwhile, one of Rodney's friends, a Lakota Sioux, is involved in a demonstration at Mount Rushmore commemorating the actions of the American Indian Movement, leading Rodney to wonder, with his dark looks, if there was not a Lakota in his ancestry. During an accident at the pageant, Rodney blacks out and has a ""thunder dream,"" a coming-of-age vision that Robinson makes much of. Hard upon Rodney's vision Quick flings himself to death rather than surrender to the police, and Rodney ends up in jail. But he never intended to do anything criminal, has a good lawyer, and (even better) Nurse Stephenson visits him while he's waiting to go to trial. Playwright Robinson's debut novel seems unsurprising in its broad intentions, and his Lakota Sioux subplot is rather far-fetched, but his two lovable losers carry the day.

Pub Date: July 31st, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Univ. of South Dakota