THE GRASS DANCER by Susan Power

THE GRASS DANCER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Power's potent debut is less a novel than a multilayered portrait of a North Dakota Sioux community. Interlocking stories mostly recede chronologically and bring to life not just individual characters but also their links to one another in the past and the present. In 1977 Jeanette McVay is shown teaching eighth-grade social studies to her Native American students. In a later section, her 1961 arrival is depicted through the eyes of the powerful Anna Thunder, who sprinkles reservation dirt in Jeanette's shoes, making it impossible for the well-meaning graduate student to leave. Anna figures in many of these stories. When her daughter Crystal becomes pregnant by a Swedish-American named Martin Lundstrom and marries him, Anna steals their daughter at birth, and Crystal tells Martin that the baby is dead. After her ghost is mentioned, a woman named Red Dress arrives to explain what happened to her in 1864 that keeps her from resting peacefully, and later she visits Crystal Thunder's daughter Charlene after Charlene uses her grandmother's ``bad medicine'' to attract men and reaps terrible results. Red Dress also describes the 19th-century attempts of Father La Frambois to convert reservation dwellers. After she translates the priest's bible stories for her father he asks, ``Why are his people so determined to kill their relatives?'' This too reverberates later, when some Indian characters are shown attending parochial school. Despite the fact that many of these stories deal in the supernatural and that they intersect almost constantly, there is never a feeling that Power is forcing her hand, and although the nonchronological arrangement takes away some clarity, in return it graces the book with numerous small and large surprises and moments of recognition. Startling and complex, but always in the most natural way. (First serial to the Paris Review, VLS, and the Atlantic Monthly; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selections; author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 1994
ISBN: 0-399-13911-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994




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