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The Death of Jim Loney

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  359 Ratings  ·  34 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 January 1st 1979)
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(showing 1-30 of 621)
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Jayme VA
Apr 29, 2015 Jayme VA rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, src-spring-2015
This is one of those strange books that I'm not sure whether I want to give 5 stars or 1 star. It took me a month to read it's less than 200 pages. It is not happy. There is barely one happy thought in this novel. It is stark and cold, like the weather in Harlem, Montana. But, all that being said, I cared about Jim Loney. I didn't want him to die, even though I knew he was going to and I figured out how the book was going to play out.

I have decided to read books by local authors in places where
Apr 29, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it
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
Mar 09, 2008 MacK rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, am-lit
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
William Boyle
Dec 27, 2012 William Boyle rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it
Masterful, poetic and haunting. This is a short book, less than 200 pages, but its scope and intelligence, and its psychological intelligence, make it seem much bigger and longer. I took my time reading it because I dreaded the weight of the outcome foretold in the title, and because the honesty and trust of Welch's prose often had me going back to re-read paragraphs; I felt I should honor the contract he was offering, and be as fully present as possible with it. Even minor characters are render ...more
Lydia Presley
It's difficult to talk about books one reads when they correspond to the area of research that individual is involved heavily in. I picked up The Death of Jim Loney by James Welch on the recommendation of a mentor of mine and I knew, going in, that there would be a lot of times I would want to stop reading and start really diving into what I was reading and analyzing it and driving myself crazy with new research thoughts and ideas. But, about a chapter in, I put that part of my mind back into a ...more
Marvin Soroos
This book, originally published in 1979) was one of several Montana classics recommended for summer reading by a newspaper columnist. It portrays the hardscrabble life of a half-breed Indian named Jim Loney in a small remote Montana town. Loney is unable to connect emotionally connect either with his dysfunctional family who abandoned him in his childhood or a white school teacher who expressed affection for him. This is a short, but powerful, novel that captures the mood of the stark landscape ...more
Aug 21, 2013 Cody rated it liked it
"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
Kevin Kehoe
Apr 21, 2016 Kevin Kehoe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon
Jim Loney is a half breed who feels out of place on the rez and in white culture. His spiral downward begins and ends with the alcoholism that consumes him. It is a story of isolation and loneliness, and surprisingly funny at times. Why does everyone in North Dakota carry a turd in their wallet?

Jan 02, 2016 Sherry added it
A little depressing (as if the title didn't imply that), but it was a good read - about a man who life just pummels - life happens to him, he doesn't seem to have any control of his own life.
Sep 21, 2011 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Mark Valentine
Mar 01, 2016 Mark Valentine rated it really liked it
Shelves: alcoholism
My sense impression after reading this is to compare it to a cross between Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and The Death of a Salesman. Obviously, the ending has no suspense; I didn't read this for plot because the title gives it away, but Jim Loney's angst, his mixed-blood no-man's-land, his being caught in the middle of nowhere looms large.

And the ending! Yes, he dies. No spoiler there. But my goodness! I was completely surprised. It gave me an insight into the monolithic despair that some--bu
Mar 06, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it
A sad tone poem about a man losing touch from a world he was never in touch with.
Jun 05, 2013 Willner9 rated it it was amazing
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
Cathy Houston
Nov 09, 2015 Cathy Houston rated it liked it
a very sad story of a wasted life
Jul 06, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
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.
May 10, 2009 Sharma rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 13, 2011 Robin rated it liked it
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.
Sep 12, 2007 david-baptiste rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-rereading
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--
Mar 28, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 18, 2010 Caitlin rated it liked it
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.
Nov 16, 2008 Ruthmgon rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2010 Charles White rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010
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
Aug 21, 2013 Nick H rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 17, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
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 really liked it
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.
Sep 15, 2009 Everthere rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 05, 2012 Declan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Post-Hemmingway, tough-guy, adjective-free prose used to tell a story about how men have to drink whiskey and be alone.
Aug 08, 2013 Darkwalker rated it it was ok
I honestly can't remember why this book didn't work for me. Perhaps I should read it again.
May 03, 2010 Krys rated it really liked it
It always pays to go back and read the authors who made you want to write. What a voice.
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James Welch was a Blackfeet author who wrote several novels considered part of the Native American Renaissance literary movement. He is best known for his novel "Fools Crow" (1986).

His works explore the experiences of Native Americans in the 19th and 20th centuries. He worked with Paul Stekler on the documentary "Last Stand at Little Bighorn" which aired on PBS.
More about James Welch...

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