…but the journey was worth it.
This book is brutal. If you are sensitive at all to suffering- be it human, animal, generational, cultural- turn away now and do not look back.
Four Blackfeet men engage in a bit of last-minute less-than-legal Elk hunting the weekend before Thanksgiving. What happens that day never really leaves them, but what they left behind comes rocketing back into their lives 10 years later. The 10 years since that day have not been easy; the men are plagued by generational trauma, broken families, substance abuse, and systemic racism. They’ve been holding onto and pushing away from tradition. They’ve been wading through their own messes, unwilling and unable to see their wake pulling down the others – especially the women- around them.
Don’t let the dour description bring you down. Stephen Graham Jones is a fascinating and frenetic writer. His horrors are truly horrible, but he’s funny, sarcastic, and whip-smart. He has the generational webs of Louise Erdrich and the breakneck horror of Stephen King. He is a big fan of both, and his influences show in Easter Egg bursts of tenderness and chaos.
The horror within this book is truly, truly horrible. The violence is sudden, graphic, and sickening. It all serves the story; the weight of the terrible and terrifying actions is mighty, permanent, and all-encompassing. These thrills aren’t cheap, but I cannot stress this enough- they are not for the faint of heart. Every action has a reaction, and every story has a violent beginning and a satisfying end.
“Denorah hates that she’d believed that, once upon a time. And she wants to cry for not getting to believe it anymore. Yes, the deer drank milk, and that left their mouths ringed white. Fuck it. Run, run.”
If you are curious- and strong of stomach- then you must listen to the audio. Shaun Taylor-Corbett is a phenomenal narrator. He voices half a dozen unique characters with both specificity and ease. He’s relaxed until he’s terrified. He’s smooth and sly until he’s ragged and begging. You can hear every look on his face. He’s absolutely amazing. As much as I want to read more Stephen Graham Jones, I want to listen to more Shaun Taylor-Corbett even more.
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author