Review by Booklist Review
Mortality is much on the mind of the longtime chronicler of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and in his new novel, he gives eloquent expression to death and the grieving process through the character of Donald. A man of few words, Donald suddenly finds himself compelled to spill out his family history after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease at the age of 45. His wife, Cynthia, sits at his side, recording his words for their two children. And the stories he tells about his Chippewa-Finnish father and grandfather, the kind of people gone forever, are tales of restlessness and the hard work of mining and ranching. By contrast, his own life has been more centered, revolving around his marriage and children and his Anishnabeg religion, although he feels a powerful connection to his people through their mutual reverence for the natural world. He faces his death with the same dignity with which he has lived his life. As the narrative shifts to record how Donald's family members cope with their grieving in the year after his passing, Harrison sounds the themes he has been working out over the course of his long and prolific career, including the healing power of nature and the deep connection between the sensual and the spiritual. In the tradition of Louise Erdrich and Thomas McGuane, Harrison displays a seemingly effortless ability to present abstract issues in earthy, muscular prose. --Joanne Wilkinson Copyright 2006 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Harrison's novel of a dying man's retelling of his complex family history requires multiple readers to bring it to life. Svendsgaard, Porter, Weiner and Garcia all stick close to the rueful and world-weary, with long pauses and a subtle downturn of intonation marking their readings. They tag-team Harrison's prose, which shifts back and forth between the reminiscences of its protagonists, with Svendsgaard often leaping in to amend or second the stray thoughts of dying Donald Burkett. Weiner, as Donald, gives his reading just the right flat, clipped tone, each sentence ending abruptly and without warning. Donald's memories, in Weiner's rendering, are less the florid interior dramas of a romantically rendered past than the honest remembrance of what once was. The other readers follow Weiner's lead, echoing his spare performance ably and underscoring his fine work. Simultaneous release with the Grove hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 25). (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Of mixed Chippewa-Finnish descent, Donald starts dictating his family history and beliefs to his wife when he discovers that he is fatally ill. Not to be confused with Harrison's 1977 poetry chapbook of the same name. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Meditations on mortality and quasi-incestuous desire inform this thoughtful, occasionally rambling novel. Making his fictional return to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Harrison (True North, 2004, etc.) tells the story of a death and its aftermath through four different narrators. The first is Donald, a man of mixed Chippewa-Finnish blood, who reflects on his life as he suffers through the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease. He's a 45-year-old man of deep spirituality and profound dignity, and he's determined to assume control over his last days. The final section's narrator is Cynthia, Donald's wife, who is still trying to come to terms with his death five months later. He had enriched her life in ways that her wealthy family never could, and she had married him because he was so unlike her pedophile father. These sections are by far the novel's strongest, leaving the reader to wonder how and why Harrison chose the two narrators in the middle. One is K, a free spirit with a Mohawk haircut, who is the stepson of Cynthia's brother, David. K helps Donald through his last days, while sleeping with Donald's daughter, Clare, and lusting after her mother. Though the familial ties are too close for comfort, Cynthia occasionally feels twinges of desire for her daughter's cousin/lover as well. The weakest section of the novel is narrated by David, who hasn't been able to come to terms with unearned wealth as well as his sister has, and whose life balances good works with mental instability. It seems that their disgraced father has somehow influenced both David's character and his fate. As the last three narrators resume their lives after Donald's death, it appears to each of them that his spirit has not died with him and perhaps is now inhabiting a bear. Studying Chippewa spirituality, daughter Clare comes to believe this most strongly, which makes one wonder why she and perhaps her brother weren't narrators instead of K and David. Death remains a mystery, as Harrison explores the meaning it gives to life. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.