cover image The Seed Keeper

The Seed Keeper

Diane Wilson. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-57131-137-5

Wilson’s deeply moving debut novel (after the nonfiction narrative Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life) unfurls the complex story of Rosalie Iron Wing and her search for connection to her family, her people, and the land. The novel opens with the voice of the Dakota people’s seeds, passed down through generations (“We hold time in this space, we hold a thread to infinity that reaches all the way to the stars”). Rosalie’s sole friend as a teen, Gaby Makepeace, is a strong young woman whose auntie teaches Rosalie about the bonds shared by Dakota women. At 18, pregnant and married to John, a white man, Rosalie tries to make a life for herself on John’s farm, whose family founded it on land stolen from her ancestors, and whose inorganic farming practices alienate Rosalie from anti-GMO activist Gaby. Decades later, after John dies from cancer, Rosalie returns to her father’s cabin where she grew up. While struggling to survive through a brutal winter, Rosalie delves into stories of her family’s painful past, often shaped by dehumanizing interventions from the U.S. government. Wilson offers finely wrought descriptions of the natural world, as the voice of the seeds provides connective threads to the stories of her people. This powerful work achieves a deep resonance often lacking from activist novels, and makes a powerful statement along the way. (Mar.)