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The Death of Jim Loney
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The Death of Jim Loney

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  284 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Jim Loney is a half-breed Indian living in a small Montana town. He's 35 years old, and he's slowly going mad. A compelling story of the modern American Indian, out of warpaint and costume, with no tribe and no home in nature or the cheap substitutes available to him.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 3rd 1987 by Penguin Books (first published October 1st 1979)
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While the central character of this short novel, Jim Loney, is stricken with a loss of direction and purpose that suggests a death of the soul itself, the characters surrounding him are themselves unmoored and drifting in their own ways. Jim, cast adrift early in life as a throw-away child of an Indian mother and white father, believes that his life would take on meaning if only he knew more about his background. But being a "half-breed" merely deepens the confusion about his identity. His older...more
When I was a teenager I was an idiot. (I'm well aware many might say that I have changed little since then, but bear with me.) In an English class, I attempted to have Welch's Fools Crow banned from the school, mostly because I was lazy and too stupid to question my classmates.

I still don't think that Fool's Crow is brilliant. After reading The Death of Jim Loney I'm sure it's not brilliant, but this book is.

Set in the small towns of the Montana highline, reflecting the community and occasional...more
William Boyle
Can't believe it took me so long to read this book. Picked up a paperback of it at a library sale ten years ago because I liked the title and cover. Didn't know anything about Welch. A few years ago, Willy Vlautin named it as one of his favorite books in an interview and it jumped to the top of my to-read pile. Still held off for some reason. Since then, I've heard Jim Harrison and others talk about it. Found my old paperback this weekend when I was home for the holidays. Finally sat down and ju...more
"She had said he was lucky to have two sets of ancestors. In truth he had none." (p. 102)

A fractured novel about a fragmented man, The Death of Jim Loney is a close study of identity. It’s about not belonging and the immense weight of marginalization. It’s about a personal isolation that mirrors the vast landscape of Northern Montana—a terrain that, like Welch’s prose, is barren and beautiful and devastating.

Much like Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, Jim Loney feels the pull between two worlds but is...more
I think that what I liked best about this book was the way in which it captured well a certain relationship that some people have to their past: the way in which certain truths about one's own life, or the people in it, become dreamlike and imaginary when they are spoken only rarely and one learns them only when very young, and later becomes cut off from the places or people in question. Also, its representations of small town and reservation life didn't feel cliched or like overdone caricatures...more
A sad tone poem about a man losing touch from a world he was never in touch with.
I feel like every James Welch book I read is better than the last. While the title is a bit of a spoiler the lackluster events and desperate milieu that lead up to the eponymous anti-climax are well worth the read. Acclaim for Welch always focuses on the fact that he was Native American, and Loney is a Native American of mixed origin. However, that is relatively inconsequential to the story, other than that it may contribute to his isolation and alienation. The stark landscape of Northern Montan...more
I read this book in college 29 years ago and I still think about it often. I love the way James Welch writes a story, it penetrates you in a way that the state of Montana does. You can’t stop thinking about the starkness of landscape and prose. Growing up in Montana I knew some of the people that populate this book. It was a very personal story to me but one that I recommend to anyone who would like to know what a deserted life looks like.
James Welch is the quintessential Montanan author -- hearty, crisp, cautious, clean -- much like roaming the great outdoors. You can view, hear and smell the scenes in his books, whether they're in the sticky bars or lonely houses or out in the middle of a chilly Montanan field -- his writing has that extra bit of magic that vivifies his scenes. Definitely not recommended for people who love happy endings.
Jesus christ, what a depressing book. I read it for a class and probably never would have heard of it otherwise. It's been about four months since I read it and I still don't know if I liked it or not, but I think about it at least once a week. Perhaps one of the hallmarks of a truly great book is that it haunts you for weeks and months on end. Or perhaps this was just a really creepy, eerie story.
The story picked up best toward the end. While reading The Death of Jim Loney I was reminded of Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and Leslie Marmon Silko's writing in Cermony; which I would say was similar to James Welch's writing, at least in the sense that they had the same feeling and underlying tone to it.
a great work of harsh lyricism by the great American Indian poet and novelist-
i first read it during a heat wave and felt like i was freezing the whole time i read it--
Can I give it six stars? Beautifully written, Jim Loney is a tragic character, aimlessly wandering through life, not knowing who he is or why he is here and seems to be in such an alcoholic fog that he can't process any information that might be presented to him.
Fitting well into Gerald Vizenor's theory of "survivance" this book chronicles the slow, madness of Jim Loney over Thanksgiving/Christmas in Harlem, Mt.
I especially appreciated Welch's striaght forward prose with a simplicity that raises the hair on your neck.
My favorite book from my favorite Montana author. Great story about an indian man (native american) and how he changes his perception of life. Not for everyone. You will know by the first paragraph if you can handle this book.
Charles White
Excellent story of a man painted into a corner. The prose is clean and tight and the characters are sharp and true. I will definitely be reading more of James Welch. Reminds me of a kind of Larry Brown of the American West.
Nick H
I was a bit nervous when reading this book because I wanted it to be on par with Winter in the Blood. The imagery and descriptions were just as powerful. I saw my own feelings of detachment and isolation in Loney's character.
Too-soon-gone, Blackfeet author James Welch (1940-2003) frequently depicted the harsh reality of life on a reservation. Welch's novels can be terribly depressing, at the same time very honest in their portrayal.
Jun 03, 2008 Dina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't mind a little tragedy now and then.
Recommended to Dina by: Anne
Shelves: bookclub
The story is a modern American tragedy. Jim Loney is the product of a broken, alcoholic family. He is drinking himself to death. The slim novel reads like an elegiac cello solo plays.
This book is like the mafia. It draws you in slowly and once it’s got its hooks in you, there is no escape and you are marked for life.
Post-Hemmingway, tough-guy, adjective-free prose used to tell a story about how men have to drink whiskey and be alone.
I honestly can't remember why this book didn't work for me. Perhaps I should read it again.
It always pays to go back and read the authors who made you want to write. What a voice.
Whitney Bermes
James just captures north central Montana life perfectly. Beautifully written.
Jennifer Murphy
At least I read all of it...

Not sure if that is good or bad.
Woody Lewis
Comparisons to Camus (The Stranger) are well-founded
This is my favorite of Welch's novels.
Mike Maguire
Mike Maguire marked it as to-read
Oct 12, 2014
Andy Kristensen
Andy Kristensen marked it as to-read
Oct 05, 2014
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