STARRED REVIEW
July 2017

A quietly powerful story of two lives intertwined

By Alexandra Fuller

In the shadow of Wounded Knee, the characters in Alexandra Fuller’s debut novel strive to make, force or find their way. Life on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation reads as both humorous and heartbreaking in Quiet Until the Thaw. Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson are cousins, bound by shared ancestry and blood, but little else. Rick grows to appreciate and revere the ways of the land of his people, the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation; You Choose turns his back on the Rez and all it would teach him.

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In the shadow of Wounded Knee, the characters in Alexandra Fuller’s debut novel strive to make, force or find their way. Life on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation reads as both humorous and heartbreaking in Quiet Until the Thaw. Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson are cousins, bound by shared ancestry and blood, but little else. Rick grows to appreciate and revere the ways of the land of his people, the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation; You Choose turns his back on the Rez and all it would teach him.

Fuller says much in few, well-chosen words, like the quiet Rick Overlooking Horse himself, who left the Rez to serve in Vietnam and came back burned in body but resolute in spirit. Winding through seminal events from the 1940s to the 2000s, Fuller muses on the nature of time itself, how it circles and returns, how cycles repeat themselves. You Choose wanders north, returns, becomes tribal chairman and then loses it all in a fit of rage. Rick finds his home in a meadow, tends wild horses, befriends buffalo and, late one night, becomes the caretaker for twin baby boys. A couple, Le-a Brings Plenty and Squanto, help raise them.

A nonfiction writer and memoirist, Fuller writes unhurriedly and with an economy of expression that is nonetheless evocative. Her characters’ lives and motivations—from You Choose and Rick to their guardian Mina; from Le-a and Squanto to the twin boys Jerusalem and Daniel—aren’t fully realized, but what is explored paints a vivid picture. As they search for belonging and meaning, every piece of the slowly unveiled story helps fill in the complicated puzzle of their relationships. You Choose’s and Rick’s paths meet time and time again until one last encounter, when the path of one becomes the path of the other in their seemingly fated intersection. Fuller writes: “Since all things are connected, always and for all time, there is no avoiding reunion.”

 

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Quiet Until the Thaw

Quiet Until the Thaw

By Alexandra Fuller
Penguin Press
ISBN 9780735223349

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