cover image Medicine River

Medicine River

Thomas King. Viking Books, $18.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82962-0

First novelist King, a professor of American and Native American studies and himself of Cherokee, Greek and German descent, sets his gentle, deliberate and ultimately engaging comedy about a group of contemporary Native Americans in a small Canadian community. Will returns to Medicine River, a town just outside a Blackfoot reserve, to bury his mother and reconsider his past. In short order he finds himself very much caught up in the present, opening a photography studio and playing on the local basketball team. His best friend and sometime coach, Harlan Bigbear, quickly convinces him to get involved with pregnant, unwed (and rich) Louise Heavyman. Will visits with Martha Oldcrow, the marriage doctor, and grapples with David Plume, just back from the protest at Wounded Knee. He meets other wanderers, from Joe Bigbear, Harlan's brother, a world traveler and storyteller par excellence, to Bertha Morley, who leaves the reservation to try her luck with a Calgary dating service. King's deceptively simple comedy is an intriguing portrait of Native American life today. (Sept.)