Medicine River Paperback – Sep 23 2005
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Winner of the PEN/Josephine Miles Award and nominated for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, Medicine River is a great introduction to Thomas King's humorous fiction. It's the story of Will, a mixed-blood man of Blackfoot descent and a marginally successful Toronto photographer, who has returned to the reserve for his mother's funeral. Will isn't planning on staying in Medicine River, but his old friend Harlen Bigbear has other plans for him. In a unique brand of community planning, Harlen sets out to sell Will on the idea of returning to Medicine River as the town's only Native photographer, and manages to convince him to at least give it a try. Will feels alienated from his friends and family, but the ever-engaging Harlan has an answer for everything.
King's gift as a comic writer is his ability to tackle serious issues within an engaging comic narrative. He subtly explores the exclusion of First Peoples from white culture and history and the challenges faced by contemporary Native communities trying to maintain a connection to the past and a grip on the present, and he makes us laugh at the same time. Using a series of comic vignettes, King draws us into the very heart of Medicine River and creates a wonderful and intimate portrait of small-town life. Readers might also want to check out his fabulous novels, Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, and his short-story collection,One Good Story, That One. --Jeffrey Canton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Medicine River is the story of Will and his best friend Harlen, and a cast of other lovable, hilarious characters as they go about their day-to-day life. There is intrigue and gossip, speculation and antics, all true to form for any typical nuclear community. The book's dialogue is superb - and laugh-out-loud funny. The reader will embrace Harlen's quirky views with glee and will sigh right along with Will, as he diligently works to get Harlen around to the punchline. Wonderful exchanges.
King has an incredible gift - it's that of showcasing the heartbreak of life against the backdrop of humour, and he does it with style, class, and ingenuity. He continues this fine tradition in Medicine River. The plight and struggle of the Native community is seen through Will's recollections of growing up fatherless. He spells out the hardships his mother endured while trying to raise him and his younger brother on her own. The story of many souls across the land, and King - through Will - has done a class act job portraying the depths of experience. The healing balm in Thomas's writings is, of course, laughter and humour, and you'll get lots of that in this novel.
The New York Times said of this book, "Precise and elegant... a most satisfying read." I'm in full agreement. An excellent book and worthy of a spot of your bookshelf. I highly recommend it.
Harlen knows everyone and doesn't mind adding his helpful suggestions in any situation. He introduces Will to all his relations on the reserve as well as dozens of others. Harlen is not content to sit back and watch others live their lives, he wants to be part of them, he wants to help. This gets Will involved with many more members of the community. It doesn't take long for Will to become an integral part of the society.
Mr. King has a wonderful story telling ability. He takes ordinary, everyday events and turns them into occasions. When Will and Harlen are looking for a gift for South Wing, they could have driven straight to Martha Oldcrow's. But no, add the adventure of going off roading, stripping and wading across the river, and now you have a story worth repeating for generations. Did I forget about Will dunking Harlen?
My favourite part of the novel occurs when Harlen convinces Will to offer a "special" for family portraits. When he agrees to do Joyce Blue Horn's family photo, he's figuring on wife, husband and kids. By the time the Shoot is completed it has included an excursion to the river where the 50+family members, including the newly "adopted to the family" Will. I can just imagine the conversation and how this simple photo steam rolled into such an event.
Interesting story telling technique Mr. King didn't go beginning to end, rather he jumped all around. Giving little tidbits that left me hungering for more. It's hard to put down a book that keeps teasing you with little details.
Most recent customer reviews
His novel is a clevery writing comedy in which the protagoninst, Will, is comfronted with many problems. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2002 by James Lange
This story, told in typical native style, is about Will finding his "family" or relations. I found the novel to be most enjoyable and true to the human condition. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2000
While there was no main struggle that the main character must overcome, as is the typical structure of a novel, this book was enjoyable and very well-written. Read morePublished on March 30 1998
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