Wednesday, December 12, 2018

[Book] There There by Tommy Orange

Book cover
I will start by noting that this book started slow for me.  It took me over two weeks to read the prologue up through the fourth chapter.  Once I passed that, I read the next 80% of the book in two days finishing on a third.

Every character in this book is a Native American either from or converging on Oakland California.  There is a lot of exploration, especially among the young characters, of what it means to be Native in the city.  A native away from the things externally associated with being Native.

I loved this book, but I feel I should not have liked it at all.  This book has most of the things that I've complained about in reviews past.  The book is non-linear.  The book retells the same scenes from different perspectives, sometimes many chapters apart.  The book jumps between grandmother to grandchild without reminding us of the shared relationship.

Yet, the details emerge.  The memories re-ignite.  Not the way I expect them to, but there is always enough there that I'm not left confused and angry.  Chapter headings are helpful here.  They name the character that the chapter will focus on.  The perspectives are amazing in how different each character sees the world.  Which things energize and which things turn off.

The author does an amazing job really pushing the personality drivers of each person, making families familiar in a way that is obvious, while making each character a fully believable individual.  There are multiple people in this book that I wish I could just sit down with an have a conversation with, or just share a meal.

By just about the middle point of the book, it becomes clear that these individual pieces of story are all converging.  More and more, the life stories that are being told are intersecting in place and time.  In this, all of the exploration, the meaning, are all in service of the overall story-arc.  The shifts in place and time, are to help us avoid spoilers for what is to come, and it is done very well.

This is a book I'm recommending without reservation.  I don't do that very often.

There is violence, gang, domestic and sexual, though the sexual violence is not described in graphic detail.


There There
Novel
Knopf
Released: 5 June 2018
Hardcover, 304 pages

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