Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mean Spirits by Linda Hogan

I have been reading the novel Mean Spirits, a 1990 novel by the Native American poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, Linda Hogan. This is the third novel of hers I've read. I enjoyed the other two but this one is larger both in pages and story -- far more characters, a whole town of native and white people in the Oklahoma Territory of the early 1900s a few years after oil has been discovered and many Natives have become rich and are the prey of all sorts of greedy charlatans, a kind of cabal of "upstanding" citizens not only systematically use "the law" to take over Indian lands -- so what else is new! -- but murder without compunction.

Much of the story centers around Belle and Moses Graycloud, their extended family including two young girls they take care of at the request of the mother of one -- who the girls see murdered early in the novel.

As always in Hogan's novels there is a strong element of magic realism which seems not so much magical as fitting in with our [white, romanticized?] ideals about Native religion and spirituality. The book is one of the most engrossing I've read in a long time, truly a page turner. Depressing and sad but also heartening for the perseverence and strength of many characters, especially Belle Graycloud. The humanity which is never sentimentalized is powerfully moving. I'm going to spend the rest of the evening reading the last 75 pages.

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