This Town Sleeps

Dennis E. Staples. Counterpoint, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-64009-284-6
In this promising but slack debut, Staples depicts a Native American community with a haunted past and a bleak future. Marion Lafournier is a 26-year-old gay Ojibwe man, cynical and wry, who feels stuck in Geshig, a small reservation town in Minnesota that “crushes any form of ambition.” He begins a clandestine affair with former prom king Shannon Harstad, who struggles to square his secret homosexuality with his conception of masculinity. While pursuing this fraught relationship, Marion encounters an otherworldly dog—a manidoo, or revenant—and follows him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, a teenager murdered by another boy years earlier. Marion seeks to find out what the manidoo wants and why it has visited him in particular. A visit to a sweat lodge ceremony with a wonderfully rendered medicine man leads to the discovery that spirits are real, not a “stupid” superstition, and Kayden’s ghost follows Marion through an investigation of his own family’s history of violence and restless spirits. The novel’s two strands, the desultory mystery and the romance, never fully gel, and neither generates quite enough suspense or emotional resonance. Staples, though, can be marvelously funny (“Good mothers don’t give their sons marijuana. Great ones do”), and there are evocative tableaus of life in Geshig. This offers tantalizing glimpses of talent with a steady hand on mystical material. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/17/2020
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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