Quiet Until the Thaw
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Author website: http://alexandrafuller.org/
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt
From bestselling memoirist Alexandra Fuller, a debut novel.
Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota. Two Native American cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson, though bound by blood and by land, find themselves at odds as they grapple with the implications of their shared heritage. When escalating anger towards the injustices, historical and current, inflicted upon the Lakota people by the federal government leads to tribal divisions and infighting, the cousins go in separate directions: Rick chooses the path of peace; You Choose, violence.
Years pass, and as You Choose serves time in prison, Rick finds himself raising twin baby boys, orphaned at birth, in his meadow. As the twins mature from infants to young men, Rick immerses the boys within their ancestry, telling wonderful and terrible tales of how the whole world came to be, and affirming their place in the universe as the result of all who have come before and will come behind. But when You Choose returns to the reservation after three decades behind bars, his anger manifests, forever disrupting the lives of Rick and the boys.
A complex tale that spans generations and geography, Quiet Until the Thaw conjures with the implications of an oppressed history, how we are bound not just to immediate family but to all who have come before and will come after us, and, most of all, to the notion that everything was always, and is always, connected. As Fuller writes, “The belief that we can be done with our past is a myth. The past is nudging at us constantly.”
I was very excited to read Quiet Until the Thaw. I was so looking forward to reading a book that from all I saw would be an interesting glimpse into the lives of two Native American cousins, written by someone with a good reputation for intelligent writing. I was disappointed. I do not know why I expected a white woman from South Africa to be able to write a novel that is able to portray the Native American life in any way except the normal cliché. She may have lived on a “rez” (a word so over used in this read standing for reservation) for several months, but I do not think that gave her a voice to speak the pain and love that has to be the heart of the Native American people. I am not, nor do I claim to be any part Native American. I do not know what it is to grow up in their culture. I am however pretty sure the movies do not get it right and every step of the way in this novel, I stumbled over the clumsy attempts to step into their lives and relate them to the reader. It really reads like it is written by someone who spent ONLY 3 months on the reservation.
Quiet Until the Thaw is set in the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota. It tells the story of two cousins who could not be any more different than the man in the moon and a true Native American. They seem to be from two different places, not only in attitude, but in their hearts. Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson were raised by their grandmother Mina Overlooking Horse. This book tells their story through the voices of several characters and all in a staggered voice that I can only assume is supposed to mimic a Native American way of speech. For me it was difficult and not enjoyable. It almost made the speech read unintelligent as if the speaker was not very bright. The story goes between different time periods and does not have the flow of other books that are able to do this without as much of a hiccup effect.
The novel takes the reader through the life of both boys as they grow to adults. Rick Overlooking Horse growing into the more “traditional” life, staying on the reservation and just being a marvelous person. You Choose Watson grows into a person quite the opposite. He does horribly in boarding school, military and then ends up in prison. He is a drunk and feels the world owes him everything. He is half cowboy and that seems to be a monkey on his shoulder at times. He comes back home only to cause even more trouble, even becoming a politician. Although that appears to be more for what he can get out of it than how he can serve others. Their grandmother knew these things would happen and was not surprised when they followed the paths they did.
I am sure this novel will be loved by many. I did not and I really wanted to enjoy it. The characters are at times enjoyable (well not You Choose), but I was not able to connect to any of them or even find any honesty in their portrayals. I did not care for the phrasing or voice of the characters. And I had a hard time feeling anything for most of the characters. I feel the book is full of the old cliché Native American stereotypes and that made me sad. What I had hoped would be of immense interest to me, was a letdown.