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Green Grass, Running Water

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,914 ratings  ·  250 reviews
Strong, sassy women and hard-luck hardheaded men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by Cherokee author Thomas King. Alberta is a university professor who would like to trade her two boyfriends for a baby but no husband; Lionel is f ...more
Paperback, 469 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Bantam (first published March 1st 1993)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Native American Fiction
36th out of 513 books — 485 voters
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichBeyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl SealThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Best Native American/First Nations Fiction
5th out of 348 books — 223 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Brad
Here's a book I wish I had never read again.

I walked away from my first reading with overwhelming feelings for Thomas King's story. I thought it one of the best books I'd ever read. It leapt to the top of my unofficial favourite books list, and I couldn't wait to read it again.

The playful subversiveness of Coyote, King's post-colonial exploding of the Lone Ranger, Ishmael, Hawkeye, and Robinson Crusoe (popular culture's great "friends" to indigenous peoples) as their true "Native" selves, lame s
...more
Rowena
This was a bookclub read and one that I didn't get into until maybe 100 pages in. In the end I quite liked it. I don't really read too much Canadian fiction, something I'm trying to remedy, and it's nice to be able to read a book which discusses places I'm familiar with. And with the Idle No More movement that is taking place in North America right now, it was definitely a good time to read this book. Native Canadian and American awareness is definitely needed.

This book introduces truly memora
...more
Beatrice
This is book candy: totally fun to read.

The novel has four movements, each of which begin with a "creation story" of sorts. King is mocking the grandiosity and fixities of the storied biblical tradition, fusing these dominant/dominating narratives with characters from the western literary canon, old hollywood and Indian pop culture. The story begins with Old Coyote: the mythic force in charge of it all. Coyote has a dream, and the dream starts to believe that it's in charge of the world. The dr
...more
Jez Layman
The format of this novel and the cyclical oral tradition/literary mashup that King presents us with is fantastic, interesting, and satirical of canon, as well as Western & Native cultures. The three levels of narration are intriguing and although they may complicate the story at times, they provide a certain amusement and insight that would not otherwise be possible. The characters are believable and lovable and when the novel is finished you will feel as if you have lost a close friend. The ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Whimsical, humourous, clever structure, a connected set of well-wrought characters fleeing and returning to (being pulled back to) their "home on Native land." A First Nations creation myth colliding with other myths, stories, fictions (Native and non-), told and retold from the perspective of four archetypical [fictional] characters: the Lone Ranger, Robinson Crusoe, Ishmael and Hawkeye.

Nicely underscores the essential collective cultural conflict as lived by individuals, and the endless strug
...more
Ryan Lawson
Definitely a book worth reading as well as rereading.

It reminded me, oddly enough, of Joseph Heller's Catch 22. The dialogue among characters is rambunctious and satirical, the narrative revisits an important story throughout the novel (i.e., Catch-22's Snowden scene), and it's duplicitously fantastical and real. Arguably, both novels also are anti-imperial, though, that's a stretch with one being anti-war and the other being anti-establishment (my opinion, of course).

The major point I carried
...more
Sheila Rocha
One reading of Green Grass, Running Water is the knock at the door of a lodge filled with possibility. Let me say this, after my first scan of the book (a first full read is really only a scan) I have formulated many more questions than opinions. This is because voice, style, motive and method present so many innovative as well as questionable textual issues.


King uses the metaphor of four age-old ancient Indians (four directions, four worlds, etc.) to deconstruct contemporary colonial imagery.
...more
Colin
This book was great. Funny, smart, and totally readable. King weaves multiple character story lines into a sharp satire about colonial history, pop culture and racism. Recommended.
Lorina Stephens
Without doubt Thomas King is the secret and wickedly clever twin of Salman Rushdie. Green Grass, Running Water is my introduction to this master of magic realism, and what an introduction it has been.

In the first third of the novel I realized bedtime reading this novel should not be (echoes of Yoda there), because the narrative, weighted heavily toward sharp, incisive dialogue, required a reader fully awake, engaged and firing on all cylinders. (Warp 9, Number One!)

By the second third I realize
...more
Kimberly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donna
Well....I've gotta tell ya, this is just about as much fun as a person could
ever have between the covers of a book. This book is simply hilarious. I'm
so glad I bought it, because I have so many corners turned down on so many
favourite passages. The story follows half a dozen or so First Nations
folks as they make their way to the annual Sun Dance festival in Blossom,
Alberta. We get to know them quite intimately, their pasts, their
motivations, their hopes for their futures, how their lives are curi
...more
John Pappas
"There are no truths, Coyote...only stories" says a character in Thomas King's novel about how stories define others and define ourselves. Juxtaposing myth with the mundane, King details several subplots, many of which deal with Blackfoot Indians making their way in 20th century America with the help (or hinderance) of traditional Native American figures (or their proxies) watching over them. As much a comment on the nature of storytelling and the power of narrative as the historicity of the Nat ...more
Gina
This is storytelling at its best -- a delightful, comical magical realism read about four native canadians who escape from a mental institution, a tv salesman turning 40 who contemplates the point of his life, his girlfriend Alberta who is trying to figure out how to conceive without bothering with a husband, the trickster Coyote who explains the creation of the world, and Uncle Eli who singlehandedly stops the canadian gov't from putting up a dam. Excellent dialogue and characters -- King's sty ...more
David Ranney
"You know, when I was in high school, I read a story about a guy just like you who didn't want to do anything to improve his life. He just sat on a stool in some dark room and said, 'I would prefer not to.' That's all he said."

"'Bartleby the Scrivener?'"

"What?"

"'Bartleby the Scrivener.' One of Herman Melville's short stories."

"I guess. The point is that this guy had lost touch with reality. And you know what happens to him at the end of the story?"

"It's fiction, Cliff."

"He dies. That's wh
...more
Monica
I loved the narrative in this book. Told from different points of view, the story blended together beautifully and the storytelling style allowed me to almost listen more than read the book. Excellent.
Nadine Hiemstra
I liked a lot about this book - the characters are interesting, the humour is quirky, and I even liked that it took the first 100 pages to get into the rhythm of the storytelling. I felt like I was falling into it slowly, seeing the story unveil itself pieces at a time.

That said, this was a long book, and full of references that I only half caught. I think someone really well versed in native and biblical creation myths would love this, especially if they also had a good grasp on Native America
...more
Mmars
This is a book for a particular audience. People who enjoy the reinvention of myths might enjoy this book based on Native American mythological creatures and myths fused with popular western characters and expectations.

I really ought to do this book justice and sit down and figure out all the cultural references and jibes, but in all honesty, I’d rather move on. It will just have to suffice to say it read very quickly and I enjoyed the humor that I understood. Perhaps an introduction or some ap
...more
Jennifer D
very interesting read.

king has got a lot going on in this story and this is a book he wants, i think, readers to work for. there are a lot of historical and cultural references, along with plays on origin stories. knowing these things, and catching them while reading, really added to the story for me, so i hope that people who read the book and don't know something they encounter will take a moment to look it up. king also uses satire in this novel. for the first part of the book (it's divided
...more
Carolyn Gerk
In favor of Green Grass, Running Water: Thomas King is clever and funny, and his novel reflects this. Full of myth and mystery tied in with satire and a back handed, quiet humor, this novel is a fun ride. Short chapters full of dialogue makes for a very quick read, and the peppering in of some rather unexplained and peculiar characters leaves us with a rather amusing journey.
What i didn't love? The way the characters constantly talked over one another and rarely answered a question directly.
Me
...more
Philippa Dowding
"As long as the grass is green and the water runs." This is an unusual book to explain, since it meanders through several story lines that take you from Fort Marion in Florida to a native reserve on the Alberta plains. So ... imagine a book where Hawkeye (from The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fennimore Cooper, not M.A.S.H), Ishmael, Robinson Crusoe and the Lone Ranger are 4 ancient native spirits who escape from their hospital in the U.S. from time to time to journey together to get up to seri ...more
Patrick Moss
I love this book. So very much. I recommend it to pretty much everyone I'm close to, who I know, or who knows me. I had to read it for a course in Native North American Lit, but it was one of the reasons why I can say I loved taking English Lit as a major in university, simply for exposing me to fantastic books. The dialogue is marvelous, enviable for a writer to read as King captures the essence of talking simply to talk, talking over another character's conversations, missing the point of a co ...more
rabbitprincess
Apr 26, 2008 rabbitprincess rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: CanLit devotees, those who like funny books
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Chelle, my ESL-teacher friend
This book has been in my orbit for a while; it was one book on "Canada Reads" the year Blue Rodeo co-frontman Jim Cuddy was championing Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Last Crossing, and a friend of mine from trivia sang its praises after having read it in her World Lit class. I read it myself, then discovered to my delight that *my* iteration of the World Lit class would be studying it as well.

For you see, this book is an excellent one to study in an English class. It is about a group of Blackfoot Nativ
...more
Natalie
Hello, Satire! This is one big satire and, structurally, a strange read. It is all over the place with its organization and there are so many characters and independent story lines that wind up being interconnected, that it took a LONG time to piece it all together. In fact, if i wasn't required to read it for a class, I likely would have quit on it out of confusion and due to the difficulty in trying to keep all of the characters straight in my head. Thrown into the crazy mix is the continuing ...more
Monika
LOVED this book!

Absolutely brilliant -- funny, smart, and insightful. The Native-centric focus is refreshing. King is playful in his pokes at European culture, the humour gentle. It is nonetheless, a damning indictment of colonialism.

Easily the best book I have read so far this year!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should add that I spent a week with the Blackfoot of Southern Alberta a number of years ago, a very powerful and transformative experience. This book illuminates a culture which
...more
Rebecca
King injects a lot of humour into this book through the trickster figure Coyote. However, in terms of dealing with issues of native/European race relations, I find his view is just as fraught with stereotypes as traditional perspectives. Why is there not one white person in the book who can be seen as a 'good guy'? (The closest is Karen, but even she can't get over the fact that Eli is native.) King maintains the dichotomy of native vs. European, although changing the protagonists around. Also, ...more
Dawn
There were so many parts to this book that I enjoyed and so many parts that left me confused.
In general the 'magical' parts of the story were the most difficult for me to understand. The characters in this storyline blended together and the tale they were telling kept returning to the beginning leaving me baffled for pretty much the entire book.
I did really enjoy the Dead Dog Cafe and Eli's fight over the hydro dam construction. I found both storylines very interesting.

There is so much about t
...more
Roderick Mcgillis
One of my favourite books. Hilarious and intricate. Lionel is a fellow who warms the cockles of my heart. Eli is wiling to stand alone. If I had the book with me now I would go through all the names. Suffice to say that this book's parodic fun with western culture and literature is funny and angry. I am moved by the understanding this book shares with cultures that have reason to be bitter, but whose bitterness transmutes into humour. This book is nice (precise) in its descriptions of university ...more
Willow
Green Grass, Running Water is partly a frame story, partly a dark comedy, partly a political commentary on the treatment of Native Americans, partly fantasy, and partly a coming-of-age story. The frame story is made up of Coyote, the narrator, Robinson Crusoe, Hawkeye, and the Lone Ranger. However, these characters bleed into the main story frequently, and chaos ensues.
I loved this book and look forward to reading it again. It is definitely a book that needs to be read multiple times in order t
...more
Rebecca - calm+clamor
I am a die-hard Thomas King fan. It's okay to be a die-hard Thomas King fan. The difficulty in being a die-hard Thomas King fan, is that it is difficult to describe what his books are about to someone who hasn't read Thomas King.

So:

Green Grass, Running Water tells four stories that are woven together. These stories are narratives that follow events in individual lives. These stories replicate, adapt, and integrate Judeo-Christian and Traditional First Nations oral histories to tell a creation st
...more
James D
This has got to be one of the most original books I've read in a long time. Fusing multiple story lines with a magically real plot line paralleling characters from Native Canadian creation stories, Thomas King has created something that is darkly comic about topics that really should be impossible to make humorous. Four ancient figures break free in Alberta - with names like the Lone Ranger, Ishmael, Coyote, Robinson Crusoe, and Hawkeye - righting at least a few historical wrongs while also mana ...more
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Thomas King was born in 1943 in Sacramento, California and is of Cherokee, Greek and German descent. He obtained his Ph.D from the University of Utah in 1986. He is known for works in which he addresses the marginalization of American Indians, delineates "pan-Indian" concerns and histories, and attempts to abolish common stereotypes about Native Americans. He taught Native American Studies at the ...more
More about Thomas King...
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative  Medicine River The Back of the Turtle Truth and Bright Water

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“There are no truths. Only stories.” 5 likes
“There are no truths, Coyote,” I says. “Only stories.” 3 likes
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