‘There There’ is a remarkable debut indeed. Tommy Orange picks the threads of stories of a number of native Indian characters who have chosen to live in Oakland and other urban areas, rather than reservations. The book traces their lives, knitting them all together towards the end. It is an insightful window into the challenges of a troubled community, haunted by its painful past, and confronted by an uncertain future. However, the book scores not only because of its unique cast of characters, but also strong writing. The only flaw – too many, just too many characters. Despite the author’s valiant efforts, it’s difficult for the readers to remember all the stories and back all the protagonists.
The Round House – Louise Erdrich
Not often you read stories set on Indian reservations. The Round House is a saga of rape, exploitation and bravery – not an unfamiliar territory for native Indians on the reservations. A disgruntled white man connected to a powerful politician carries out a killing to hide the evidence of his own misdeeds and then compounds the crime by raping an eyewitness – and both the victims are Indian women. The story, told by the second victim’s son, is essentially an unraveling of the mystery of what actually transpired. The plot by itself isn’t exceptional but is told well. The setting is unique – the modern day life on Indian reservations is captured really well. However, what stands out is the voice of the narrator. A genuine teenaged voice, reminiscent of Salinger. The POV is strong, stark and deeply endearing.