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Review: There There by Tommy Orange

Title: There There
Author: Tommy Orange
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 290
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): There There is a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people. It tells the story of twelve characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and unspeakable loss.

Review: I've been hearing a lot about this book, just that it's good, but no real details so I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I began it at the wrong time for reading a book like this so I took a break and came back to it this weekend when I read it in a couple sittings.

There are a lot of characters, each of whom takes enough chapters for us to learn their background, how they feel they fit into the Native community, why they are going to the powwow and how they fit in with other characters. I found all the characters a bit difficult to keep track of. That said, these are characters who will stay with me for a while.

The characters' stories are good and feel weighty. The amount of alcohol, violence, feelings of loss, and needing to belong are palpable. In some ways that feels very real and important and in others I feel like it's playing into stereotypes. I'm torn. The book is so well written and tells the reader about perspectives that we often don't hear / read. I feel that I have a better understanding of some issues have read this book.

The author did a wonderful job of building up to the powwow and the convergence of all of these characters. We know something awful is going to go down, but we don't know how each of the characters will be affected. The tension is so well done! 

Have you read this book? What do you think about it?

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