cover image Night of the Living Rez

Night of the Living Rez

Morgan Talty. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-953534-18-7

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, implying that they might be the same person in different phases of life. “In a Jar” introduces young Simpsons-watching David as he copes with an absent mother and her hard-drinking medicine man boyfriend, Frick, who earned his nickname for a habit of saying “fricken this, fricken that.” His older sister, Paige, gets pregnant, stoking their mother’s ire like “Homer on Bart,” and the angry Frick dismisses David for being trigger shy on a hunting trip. Abandoned hunting trips recur throughout, as in “Food for the Common Cold,” about a tragic episode from Frick’s earlier life, and in the interstitial stories following 20-something Dee and his friend Fellis, who talk in “Get Me Some Medicine” about hunting porcupines for money. In “Earth Speak” and “The Name Means Thunder,” Talty reveals more of Dee’s and Paige’s painful histories involving opioids and methadone; the latter story, narrated by a grown-up David, serves both as a standalone meditation on truth-telling and an elegant keystone to the collection. Talty brings an abundance of love and skill to his accounts of troubled lives. The ingenious structure and heartbreaking stories make this unforgettable. Agent: Rebecca Friedman, Rebecca Friedman Literary. (July)