Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It was one of my goals to read more indigenous authors in 2020, but I've
decided to withhold judgment on Leslie Marmon Silko until I've read her
other works. I know better than to punish a writer or a novel for not
being what I wanted but this doesn't match the cover blurb or what I was
hoping for. Instead of a family or community saga saturated in
characters from various indigenous backgrounds, it is a novel about
government corruption, police corruption, drug trafficking, people
trafficking, unethical business practices, and people who place no value
on lives other than their own. Most of the characters are white men and
the author puts the reader inside their narratives, leaving me reading
from uncomfortable perspectives page after page after page. By the time I
got back to the characters I initially felt invested in, I didn't care
as much about them after they'd been absent for 500 pages.
of the novel takes place in Tuscon but some characters and chapters are
in Mexico, elsewhere in Arizona, maybe California. Current events are
eco-terrorism, the early hints of the Internet (the novel was originally
published in 1991), the AIDS crisis, and the ongoing commercial
failures of the industries who had moved into Tuscon and Phoenix.
is an underlying sense that those who are indigenous have developed
various ways of coping with the dominant population (some comply, some
become corrupt, some plan revolution, some stick to themselves) and the
novel actually ends in a somewhat hopeful way, but it's a heck of a
journey to get there. This book is dark and reminded me of the
experience reading 2666.
underlying premise according to the publisher blurb is this fragmented
text handed down from ancestors to these elderly sisters but it really
played such a minor role - I would have loved to see it more
significantly a part of the text. With how much attention is given it in
the beginning I was left without feeling it had done much. Same with
many of the early characters, honestly. I think the author may have
tried to do too much and just ended up not doing much. Publishers Weekly didn't disagree with me.
CW rape, murder, suicide, drugs, harm to children, harm to animals, kidnapping, etc.
View all my reviews