Paul Two Persons, the tough, troubled protagonist of Johnson’s Don’t Think Twice (1999), returns in another moody work, part character study and part fast-moving mystery.
Paul runs a fishing lodge on the fringe of the Chippewa reservation in northwest Minnesota, where he is a member of the tribe though his wife Gwen is not. His success in the outside world, where he trained as a scientist, his non-Indian wife, and his determination to make his lodge a success have all contributed to making Paul a curious and troubling figure to many in his tribe. Matters aren’t helped when he finds himself in the middle of a battle over efforts to bring more money onto the reservation. A plan to build a massive new road (cutting across the land Paul leases from the tribe) has aroused opposition; and when an opponent of the project is found dead, a troubled young man who works for Paul is accused. The accused in turn dies, and Paul begins his own investigation, quickly uncovering evidence of massive corruption and discovering that a hit squad has infiltrated the reservation to silence opposition to the development plan—its attention now focused on Paul and his family. To save them, Paul must unmask who’s behind the plot and find out its real goal. Readers may guess the villain before Paul does, and the details of the conspiracy, turning on mineral discovery on the reservation, may seem unduly convoluted. But more important are Johnson’s vivid portrayals of life on a reservation and of the conflict between a traditional people venerating the natural world and an aggressively technological society exploiting it. Also memorable is Johnson’s portrait of his protagonist, a bright, decent man haunted by his failures, anxious to make a better life for his family but unable to let things rest when violence has been done.
With its celebration of the resilience of Native American culture, a rewarding and often moving story. (Author tour)