Green Grass, Running Water
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Green Grass, Running Water

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  3,225 ratings  ·  208 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 July 1st 1994 by Bantam Books (first published March 1st 1993)
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7th out of 275 books — 191 voters


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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
Katherine
Thomas King's gentle, meandering narrative follows a small group of First Nations people engaged in the day-to-day - moving on after divorces, getting by at work, etc... yet while their lives go on, Coyote and four all-powerful elders get to work on fixing the world and undoing its racist iconography.

King has an amazing subversive sense of humor that never dismisses tragedy, and this really is a book that will have you laughing and crying at the same time.
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
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
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
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
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.
Kimberly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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.
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
Cheryl in CC NV
Oh dear. While reading this, I felt frustrated. I didn't find it "funny." I didn't think it unlike other Native fiction. I didn't understand it, or like it. *However* - days & other books later, I'm still thinking about it, and some glimmers of understanding are coming to me as I see something in life, or in another story, that seems to echo or reinforce, or be reinforced by, a theme or motif in King's book.

For example, I still think about the white owner and Indian salesman of the electron...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
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
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
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
The Snowman
Been some time since I read anything Canadian and this fit the bill quite well. I will say, as a precursor to this review, I am reading this for class and I took shallow, small notes as I read it. And I think this definitely helped me keep up with the story, themes, motifs etc.

As it were, Green Grass Running Water is a "woven" story where basically everything, down to the wording, is linked to plots, characters, motifs, themes and storylines recurring throughout the novel. It is also a satire,...more
Ashley
Great book, and easily a new favorite!

King uses a different format of the novel to challenge the way we've come to expect a novel to flow. Initially there were plenty of moments when you could find yourself wondering why the storylines are so fragmented. However, they are really woven together in a way that by the end of the novel everything really feels like it fell into its proper place -- at least, for now. The characters' lives mingle with one another in such bizarre and interesting ways it'...more
Deanne
A "must-read" for those interested in Native Literature. With humor and stark irony, the layered storytelling weaves multiple narratives together and critically assesses the way we tell stories and the worlds those stories live in.
Anna
Being a big fan of The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour (the old CBC throwback aboriginal comedy show that starred author Thomas King alongside 'Gracie Heavy Hand' and 'Jasper Friendly Bear' doing such things as 'The Authentic Indian Name Generator' and 'Conversational Cree'), I read the book after I became familiar with the show. King pulls off some highly impressive narrative manipulation here. The first half of the book feels disjointed (on purpose, I later realised) as he tells short, half-page (so...more
Katherine Krige
Own this book and re-read it every few years. There are so many layers to it and enough humour to make it a great read over and over again.
Agnes
I, enjoyed this book immensely. The author's style is inventive, funny,and full of clever allusions. King's unique blending of western style literature describing contemporary First Nations life with a large dose of magical realism and tradition oral story telling was unexpected and probably my favorite part of the novel. The juxtaposition of the western creation narrative with tradition First Nations creation stories was so clever and especially entertaining. This novel was a very pleasant surp...more
Amélie
Ça fait quelques minutes que je suis là à me demander ce que je vais dire de ce livre, parce que d’un côté j’ai beaucoup de respect pour ce que l’auteur a essayé de faire (ou ce que j’ai cru qu’il a essayé de faire, anyway), de tisser autour de la vie de quelques Amérindiens de l’Ouest canadien une fiction particulière, qui revisite les mythes qu’on s’approprie sans les comprendre, qui se sert de l’humour comme d’une massue, pour mieux nous confronter à nos préjugés & nos à priori — mais de...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 Truth and Bright Water One Good Story, That One: Stories

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“There are no truths, Coyote,” I says. “Only stories.” 3 likes
“There are no truths. Only stories.” 2 likes
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