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Reviews of Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

Night of the Living Rez

by Morgan Talty

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty X
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Jul 2022, 296 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.

How do the living come back to life?

In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty―with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight―breathes life into tales of family and community bonds as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family's unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer's projects the past onto her grandson, and thinks he is her dead brother come back to life; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.

In a collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of a Native community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.

Excerpt
Night Of The Living Rez

When the bus arrived in Overtown, it parked and hissed and sank in the cracked concrete lot. The woman sitting beside me—thin brown hair, worn brown skin, puffy brown mole on her neck—did not stand, and she did not look to want to leave the bus.

From South Station in Boston to Overtown—through dark tunnels lit by passing headlights and orange bulbs, through highways green with pine and pressed below gray sky—the woman had sat in the same position: upright, hands folded over the blue-and-white-striped handbag on her lap, and her eyes set straight ahead much like a driver, like in her mind she was traveling somewhere and could not take her gaze from it. She had a used Gatorade bottle. Cool Blue, the label read, yet the contents were not Cool Blue but instead looked to be apple juice. She didn't drink from it, and every once in a while, my eyes shut, I'd hear her shaking the bottle, my eyes open, and then she'd set it back in the ...

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  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Awards
    2022

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Talty has a remarkable talent for summoning bizarre imagery and incidents, details that are vividly realistic, funny and vaguely reminiscent of a horror film, like the one referenced in the book's title. These details include a woman firing a Super Soaker squirt gun full of her own urine in a store, and a plague of caterpillars squirming across the reservation's roads ("Some were dead, run over by cars and trucks—it sounded like popcorn popping when we drove over it—and others were alive, crawling among the gooey dead in search of trees with leaves they hadn't eaten"). Talty's choice to move back and forth through time rather than present a linear narrative of David's life gives the reader space to interpret and draw their own conclusions about his decisions and the trauma that informs them...continued

Full Review (799 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Good Housekeeping
In these searing, devastating and often darkly funny stories, we come to know a community of Native people living on a Maine Penobscot reservation in all of their complexity and drive for survival. There's family tragedy, struggle with drugs and deep poverty, but there's also children with a plucky spirit, adults who grapple for purchase against all odds and an abiding love that will stay with you for a long time.

The Boston Globe
A perfect mix of funny, sad, timely, and intense, this one has something for everyone.

The New York Times
Talty's debut collection, full of surprising drama, offers a fresh view of the precarious lives of marginalized people in the 21st century.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In 12 linked stories, all narrated by a character named David, Talty's debut collection provides an unsparing perspective on the harsh reality of life in the Panawahpskek (Penobscot) Nation of Maine...Ranging from grim to tender, these stories reveal the hardships facing a young Native American in contemporary America.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Talty's smart and gritty debut, a linked collection, poignantly overlays a boy's coming-of-age on the Penobscot reservation with a young man's present-day struggles to overcome opioid addiction and economic precarity...Talty brings an abundance of love and skill to his accounts of troubled lives. The ingenious structure and heartbreaking stories make this unforgettable.

Author Blurb Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf By the Ears
Night of the Living Rez is an indelible portrait of a family in crisis, and an incisive exploration of the myriad ways in which the past persists in haunting the present. I loved these sharply atmospheric, daring, and intensely moving stories, each one dense with peril and tenderness. Morgan Talty is a thrilling new talent.

Author Blurb Tommy Orange, author of There There
There is so much brutal, raw, and beautiful power in these stories. I kept wanting to read and know more about these peoples' lives, how they ended up where they ended up, how they would get out, how they wouldn't. It is difficult to be so honest, and funny, and sad, at once, in any kind of work. Reading this book, I literally laughed and cried." -

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Beyond the Book

Penobscot Indian Island Reservation

Black-and-white aerial photograph of the Penobscot Indian Reservation along the Penobscot River, trees and rooftops visible on land with surrounding water Night of the Living Rez takes place on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine, home of the Penobscot Nation tribe of Native Americans, also known as the Panawahpskek Nation. Panawahpskek is the name for the Penobscot in Abenaki, the language used by these and other Indigenous Algonquin peoples in Maine and Quebec. The island reservation is 22 square miles, about a third of which is land, with the rest made up by the Penobscot River. The population was 627 people as of the 2020 census.

The Penobscot are believed to have lived in the area now made up of Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for 11,000 years before the arrival of explorers and colonizers. By the late 18th century, Europeans were occupying these territories, ...

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Read-Alikes

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