Review: Quiet Until the Thaw

Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller

Penguin Press, 2017.  Hardcover, 288 pages.

Cover: Quiet Until the Thaw

Quiet Until the Thaw is the debut novel by Alexandra Fuller, an author known for her memoirs. It tells the story of two Lakota Oglala Sioux cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Chose Watson.  Though linked from birth and their shared experience being raised by their grandmother, the two boys take a different path in life.  You Chose is the wild one who does not settle down. On the other hand, Rick is the quiet, contemplative one who prefers solitude yet is unafraid on taking a stand when needed.  When tribal uprisings over federally imposed injustices begin, the two’s paths further diverge.

As their lives progress, the novel also illustrates more than the life-cycle of the main characters as they grow from youths to old men.  As hinted above, the novel strives to show how hard it is to live on a reservation and the ways the governments tried to force changes on the Native American people (including Rick’s service in the Vietnam War and You Chose’s lack thereof).  At the same time, stories taken from Native culture are depicted in ways to show the strength of the people affected and this helps to provide hope.  One could say that the characters are a vehicle for showing the culture and history of the Oglala Sious in the novel.

This novel takes an unusual format.  It is episodic, which each chapter featuring a piece of the whole.  This tactic both draws a reader in to learn more and leads to fast-paced story. Despite this, the writing was descriptively poetic much of the time outside of the dialogue.  As this is the first book I have read set on a reservation since the Dear America books as a youth, I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy in this novel.  Fuller writes in the introduction of the advanced reader copy that she once spent three months living on a reservation.  With a reservation as the majority of this novel’s setting, one wonders just how accurately it is depicted.  Certainly, it is more accurate that a novel written by one who has never set foot on a reservation, but would it not be better still to have one written by someone who grew up there?  That’s a question I would like to know as I do wonder just how much of the writing is truth and how much is stereotype.

Have you read a similar book to recommend?  it would be nice to learn more of the true story behind expirences such as those in this novel.

This review is based on an advanced reader edition provided by the publisher.  The novel will be released on June 17, 2017.

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