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Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller

FullerQuietFuller, born in Britain, and raised in Zimbabwe, has previously written several very well-received memoirs about living in Africa; among them are Leaving Before the Rains Came and Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.

After the author moved to Wyoming, she attended the annual commemoration of the 1877 murder of Crazy Horse on a nearby reservation. As Fuller said in an interview, she arrived to participate in the commemorative ride of 400 men and women mounted on horseback. She felt instantly at home on the reservation, and she stayed for three months. She lived with the Lakota Indians and participated in all aspects of their daily life, including tribal ceremonies.

Quiet Until the Thaw, her first fiction novel, is set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota, home to the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation. Fuller’s story spans generations and geography, writing frankly about the effect of the federal government’s continuous interference in Indian affairs. Two main characters, cousins Rick Overlooking Horse, and You Choose Watson, born within a month of each other, serve as the reader’s window into tribal divisions and infighting. The men could not be more different. Rick, a seriously injured Vietnam War veteran, chooses a peaceful l existence at the edge of the desert. He refuses government disability and military pension payments, instead living off the land, selling herbal medicines, breaking horses, and becoming a wise man. You Choose Watson takes a completely different path, becoming a thoroughly corrupt tribal business leader.

Fuller’s story telling is nothing short of fabulous, entrancing me as I read about a subject I didn’t know I would be interested in. The chapters are short, only one or two pages each, and every word needs to be read carefully.

The author finished the novel with an uplifting, hopeful ending that leaves the reader feeling satisfied, yet it avoids the trite “everything tied up in a bow” convention that would do a disservice to the seriousness of the book’s content.

I highly recommend Quiet Until the Thaw by this very talented memoirist turned novelist.

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