The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich

Rating: 4 of 5

A multi-generational story that blends Native beliefs (myths, legends, folklore) with the everyday reality of issues like domestic abuse, alcoholism, and suicide, to name only a few. The whole dynamic of clashing cultures, especially the internal struggles of urban Natives, fascinated me; it’s something I hadn’t yet been exposed to in my reading.

Some bloods they go together like water–the French Ojibwas: You mix those up and it is all one person. Like me. Others are a little less predictable. You make a person from a German and an Indian, for instance, and you’re creating a two-souled warrior always fighting with themself.

I loved the frame of the sewing twins which identified the four parts of the story (fate and destiny; beginnings and endings). I loved how the story unfolded, moving back and forth through time, almost a mystery to solve, until the end when we step back from the individual strands and finally see how the two families are interwoven as one living, fluid tapestry. And I appreciated that – amidst all the sadness, loss, betrayal, and tragedy – hope, forgiveness, second chances permeated the story’s lifeblood.

The Antelope Wife was my first experience with Erdrich’s stories and I look forward to reading more of her works.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

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A few of the passages I bookmarked:

From what I understand, the rays killed the tumor and also zapped his funny bone. He kept his taste, touch, sense of smell, and so on, but he lost an Indian’s seventh sense. He lost his sense of humor. Now he is the only Indian alive without one.

Windigo. Bad spirit of hunger and not just normal hunger but out-of-control hunger. Hunger of impossible devouring.

When the ogitchida came home from the land of the frog people he was strange, but that is often how warriors are when they return. 1945. End of the war. So many spirits out, wandering.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating: 4 of 5

Synopsis: “A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy, whose family lives on the fringe of society and struggles to survive in a hostile world that shuns and fears them.” (source)

My thoughts: I was compelled to read this book thanks to an article/ interview posted on Cemetery Dance Online. During the interview, Jones mentioned WHEN ANIMALS DREAM; I thought, hey, this dude may be alright, so I picked up Mongrels.

A coming-of-age tale with werewolves seemed like a perfect idea to me, and Jones delivers. Seriously, I was hooked from sentence one: “My grandfather used to tell me he was a werewolf.”

I adored the unnamed narrator’s Grandpa from the get-go. And it wasn’t until I finished the story and started thinking about my “review” that I realized the narrator was never named; I felt like I knew him so completely. Crafty, sneaky author. While I did not enjoy the grisly details involving owls and bunnies and dogs, those added another layer of realism to the werewolves’ behavior. I simply looked away from those poor animals’ death scenes and read on.

I couldn’t stop reading either. Their dysfunctional little family was messed up, sure, but man there was a lot of heart there. Loyal and protective, accepting of one another. Hell, if one were to overlook their criminal tendencies and, you know, the occasional murdering, it’d be hard not to want family members like them to have your back.

There was also an interesting mix of new and old folklore surrounding the werewolves in Mongrels. I won’t go into specifics, because it’s more fun to let them unfold as you read, but I will say the whole story had a freshness that I’ve missed in horror recently. Plus, like I already mentioned, it had heart and, ultimately, I think that depth was what allowed me to overlook its minor imperfections.

Highly recommended especially if you devour everything werewolf.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)