Book Review │The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

If you are someone who enjoys horror novels that build on suspense and intrigue throughout before delivering a by your seat kind of ending, then The Only Good Indians is a summer read that you’re going to have to pick up. In a similar vein to Stephen King’s It, Jones plays on the idea that what you uncover years ago will eventually come to find you. There is no running from your past and what your past has created or in Lewis’s case, manifested by his younger self’s poor decision making to elk hunt in a place where they had no right to do so and, who along with his friends, took more than they would ever need. Their kills manifested something powerful that now, a decade later, is wanting its revenge.

We meet up with Lewis, a Blackfeet, who is now in his 30’s. He has lived off the reservation for sometime and works for the post office. He is happily married to Peta and has a solid life. One night, a light appears above the mantel in his home and so he climbs a tall ladder to see what is causing it. When he looks down, he sees the bloodied body of an elk that he has killed years ago and still holds its hide. Startled, he loses his footing and is sure that he is about to meet certain death on the brick beneath him when his wife intervenes and saves him. His friend Ricky, an accomplice to the illegal hunt years ago, is not so lucky, however. He has already met his end in the parking lot of a bar at the end of an elk’s antlers.

Thus, we are thrown into the world where Lewis and his remaining friends are fighting for their lives along an unseen force that is bent on revenge for their choices they made when they were young. These group of men are relentlessly chased by the monster they manifested when they killed the elks years ago. We shift from third person to first person as the she-elk-monster seeks her revenge on them and then back to third for the grand finale. There is much blood and gore and yes, if you are like me, the killing of the dog and the descriptive nature of the scene will leave you marred for days afterwards, but overall, this horror novel that mixes with Native American lore is a great pick for a late night read when you’re looking to stay up late and have your darkened living room feel like a creepy den of subtle horrors.

What I liked most about this novel is that it was not only a well-written horror piece, but it was also generally well-crafted and invited higher literary elements into the text such as the use of Native American lore, symbolism and several themes that helped to drive the tension of the novel including Lewis’s guilt over marrying a white woman, life outside of the reservation and the plays on sanity versus descent into madness.

“Death is too easy. Better to make every moment of the rest of a person’s life agony.”

About the Author

Stephen Graham Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author with over 20 titles to his name. He holds degrees from Florida State University, University of North Texas and Texas Tech University. A native of Texas, Jones is currently the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. For more information be sure to visit his website.

Book Information

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones was released on July 14, 2020 from Gallery Saga Press with ISBN 9781982136451. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic galley that was supplied by the publisher in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

I have not read a lot of literature involving Native Americans and culture, but I did find Love Medicine and decided to read it. Published in 1984, Love Medicine tells the story of a group of Chippewa living on a reservation in North Dakota. Erdrich chronicles 60 years of the lives of these people.

She opens her novel with the passing of June Morrissey who freezes to death in a snow storm trying to get back to her family. The novel continues in a very conversational way, introducing us to various members of the family and reservation which is reminiscent of Native American culture wherein stories were spoken, not written. Erdrich richly paints the trials and difficulties of living on a reservation, revealing the alcoholism and abusive relationships that plague many of the people that live there.

With younger generations, Erdrich explores what it’s like to be an Euro-Indian, wherein the unfairness and often clear resentment of the US government is evident and explored.

What I found difficult of the book was keeping the relationships of the characters in order. There are many affairs and surprises of paternity that occur throughout the book, often times the characters themselves not even being aware of their true parental lineage. I had difficulty keeping it all straight, especially when trying to understand where alliances stood and why.

Score: 3/5

Book Information: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich was originally published in 1984 with a revised edition having been released in May of 2009 by Harper Perennial with ISBN 978-0061787423.