Top critical review
What a waste (SPOILERS)
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2019
What a waste of a great premise and the reader's time. Silko really botched it, which is a shame because the first chapters are so well done and the prose is intoxicating. A half-white, half-Laguna Indian WWII veteran with PTSD struggles to rejoin a society that has returned to disregarding his people despite their sacrifice, but it goes off the rails, quick. It's a common device in NA lit to join classic myth into the present/reality, and anyone with PTSD knows this slipping into the past is a major struggle, so the promise of introspection is obvious. Wrong. Silko brushes past it and digs right into arcane nonsense. It is in these rituals that Tayo gets confused. He has moments of clarity in which he relies on his own wit to navigate his journey, but then gets bogged down in the mythos of his people and shaman forecasts and adhering to this prescribed ceremony and enacting the elements of an ancient story just because the stars are the same and there's a drought (in a DESERT), and if anything it derails his healing process further by introducing so many confounding elements and stating Tayo must understand his struggle as a bit player in a global drama that includes ancient rites and fables he must adhere to, rather than looking inward and to mental health experts for answers and strength. Spoiler alert, it doesn't help and (really seriously this time, this is a big spoiler) in reducing his friends to analogues in an ancient ceremony narrative, he lets them be tortured and killed because the medicine man predicted he would let it happen. That's great for PTSD, forcing the patient into another very similar traumatic event. It's astonishing, especially because the book is so pompous about the efficacy and accuracy of their predictions, while this man has a full-blown meltdown following their counsel. Tayo thinks about helping while he watches his best friend in the world get strung up on wire and maniacs cut his toes off, and certainly could have if he had retained free will, but ultimately doesn't. Because why be accountable and have agency in your own life when you can resign yourself to a bit role in someone else's story?