The uneven pacing throughout “The Night Watchmen” diminishes the power of its depiction of the hardships and maltreatment of Indigenous Americans, circa the 1950’s. I usually prefer character driven narratives, so I am used to slow building novels that require my patience because the emotional payoff is usually so much more satisfying. BUT . . . the first third of the book dragged on and on and on, focusing on a myriad of characters’ mundane daily activities to the point that I almost did not finish it.
The book picked up in the middle. I did enjoy the richly drawn characterizations, often humorous, of the many people trying to survive, defend their land and find love on Table Mountain’s Chippewa Reservation in the nether regions of North Dakota. It has some powerful moments and beautiful Native American spiritual nuances, but what is weird is that the book’s denouement comes at light speed - a series of Post-It-like notes that wrap up the plot, a technique that left me disappointed and unsatisfied. For me, less detail up front, more detail at the end would have created a more memorable read.