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Green Grass, Running Water

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,636 Ratings  ·  286 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
27th out of 588 books — 543 voters
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas KingLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichThree Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Best Native American/First Nations Fiction
3rd out of 382 books — 276 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 27, 2009 Brad rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian-lit
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
Jun 03, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jez Layman
Sep 12, 2014 Jez Layman rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2009 Beatrice rated it really liked it
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
Ryan Lawson
Feb 08, 2010 Ryan Lawson rated it it was amazing
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 31, 2014 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: idle-no-more
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
A very unique approach. At times funny. At times confusing. One can never say mundane.
Sheila Rocha
Dec 28, 2007 Sheila Rocha rated it liked it
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.
This is an extremely complex, multilayered tale. Definitely the kind of book you want to discuss, and study. There are lot of metaphors and symbolism in the book, which had me turning to Google throughout the read.
Nov 29, 2008 Colin rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Vit Babenco
Aug 20, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it really liked it
Green Grass, Running Water is a tale of cosmogony and genesis in Indian style.
“First Woman’s garden. That good woman makes a garden and she lives there with Ahdamn. I don’t know where he comes from. Things like that happen, you know.
So there is that garden. And there is First Woman and Ahdamn. And everything is perfect. And everything is beautiful. And everything is boring.
So First Woman goes walking around with her head in the clouds, looking in the sky for things that are bent and need fixing.
Lorina Stephens
Dec 29, 2015 Lorina Stephens rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2009 Kimberly rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canlit, mythology
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
John Pappas
Jul 27, 2011 John Pappas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 11, 2009 Gina rated it really liked it
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
Jul 17, 2016 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, indigenous
Original, satirical, mythical, magical realism with a strong dash of humour thrown in. Multiple character story lines are woven into a parody of western culture and the result is a very clever story, and a fun read.
Aug 10, 2007 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
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
May 08, 2015 Nadine Hiemstra rated it liked it
Shelves: indigenous-lit
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
Apr 22, 2015 Mmars rated it liked it
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
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
Carolyn Gerk
Feb 21, 2015 Carolyn Gerk rated it really liked it
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.
Patrick Moss
Nov 21, 2012 Patrick Moss rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 26, 2008 rabbitprincess rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Aug 04, 2012 Natalie rated it liked it
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
Jul 22, 2009 Monika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 07, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
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
May 28, 2012 Roderick Mcgillis rated it it was amazing
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
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
Rebecca - calm+clamor
May 24, 2015 Rebecca - calm+clamor rated it it was amazing
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.


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
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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
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“There are no truths. Only stories.” 7 likes
“There are no truths, Coyote,” I says. “Only stories.” 6 likes
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