The Grass Dancer

The Grass Dancer

Book - 1994
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On a Sioux reservation in North Dakota potent forces converge today, asthey have for centuries. Ancestral ghosts make their presence known among the living.Dreams inspire journeys, both literal and physical. The dying are summoned to a councilfire "five steps beyond the edge of the universe." And, through it all, good medicine andbad magic nudge the intricate twists of fate. Such is the setting for Susan Power's debut novel, The Grass Dancer, itselfa remarkable journey through many times and many realms. Power, an enrolled memberof the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, has created a spellbinding collection of interwoventales that not only illuminate the hearts, minds, and spirits of an unforgettable cast ofcharacters but also offer startling insights into the use and abuse of power. In the first contemporary scene of The Grass Dancer a young man's life isstruck by tragedy for the second time. Harley Wind Soldier, whose father and olderbrother were killed in a car accident four weeks before his birth, meets Pumpkin, anunusual and irresistible young woman, at an inter-tribal powwow. After astonishing thecrowd with her command of the ritual "grass dance," Pumpkin spends the night withHarley, and both discover she is the one who can light the empty corners of his soul. Butthe next day, Pumpkin is killed in a car crash. An accident perhaps, or the work ofMercury Thunder - the reservation witch whose granddaughter, Charlene, has also set hersights on Harley. As the novel unfolds, we learn more of the complex, intertwined histories thatultimately brought this scenario into being. We learn of Harley's family secret and of thetrue reason his mother, Lydia, relinquished her power of speech when she was widowed.We learn of Charlene's bondage to--and ultimate liberation from--a grandmother whoeveryone on the reservation rightfully fears. And we learn what awful circumstance couldbring a woman such as Mercury Thunder to manipulate her tremendous gift of power forevil ends. Along the way we encounter many others whose individual stories are threads in thislarger tapestry. Jeannette McVay is a teacher at the Indian school who came to studyIndian "superstition" and finds herself inextricably bound to the reservation as if by apreternatural tie. Red Dress and Ghost Horse are two formidable spirits whose influenceextends across boundaries of death. Harley's grandmother, Margaret Many Wounds, stopson her way to the ancestral council fire to frolic on the moon with the Apollo astronauts. The Grass Dancer is a cornucopia of legends and legacies, secrets andsurprises. As one layer of its tale is peeled away, another is revealed, until we are leftwith a core of understanding of the hopes, dreams, values, and attitudes that informpeople and a culture across the generations. Power is a storyteller whose narratives are sovivid that readers are, time and again, shocked when they realize what they have been toldis a fictional tale.
Publisher: New York : Putnam's, c1994.
ISBN: 9780399139116
0399139117
Characteristics: 300 p. ; 24 cm.

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s2cycle
Jan 22, 2017

I, too, found this story amazing both in its style of story telling and in its profusion of characters. It is not your usual novel, driven in a single direction and perhaps explained with flashbacks. This book takes you on a journey into the past, one step at a time then flashes forward to a stirring conclusion. Which, now that I think of it, is not necessarily a finish, but a moment's pause in the story.

I loved it even as it challenged me to hold its disparate cast of characters straight in my mind. My advice to readers would be to just read on. All will become clear. And if it doesn't clear for you enough, it will be an enjoyable second read.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

The magic, mysticism and history of the Sioux people is woven into a story of spiritual healing and romance. A must read for Barbara Kingsolver fans.

l
lorcha
Dec 06, 2012

This book is part historical, part magical realism with supernatural elements. It follows the lives a various members of the Sioux Nation starting in the 1980s and going back into the 18 hundreds. It was very interesting reading about things that we would consider paranormal but that were considered to be real in traditional Sioux culture. One of the characters is a Sioux witch, a rather evil one and there are also ghosts and a shaman. Long-dead ancestors still make appearances in modern life.
At times while reading this book I felt like there were too many characters and would have preferred to read more in depth about fewer ones. However as the story ends everything comes together. All the characters and stories are interrelated and come together in a perfect whole story leaving the reader very satisfied. I loved all the references to the Grass dancer who “wants to learn grass secrets by imitating it, moving his body with the wind."
I would highly recommend this book!

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