Julianne's Reviews > Truth and Bright Water

Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King
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Aug 02, 12

bookshelves: fiction

This is a crazy bildungsroman as only Thomas King could craft one. The tale takes place in two towns, one named Truth, the other Bright Water, separated from each other by a river...and the U.S./Canada border. The only way to get across the river without driving many miles upriver or downriver is to ferry oneself across the gorge in a tin bucket suspended from a wire cable. One gets the sense that this river and its bridge-less state is a metaphor for something...

Actually, as in most of Thomas King's writing, pretty much everything in the book seems to be a metaphor for something. Whether it's Lucy Rabbit and her insistence that Marilyn Monroe was Native American or the child's skull our protagonist, Tecumseh, and his cousin Lum find (well, really, it's Tecumseh's dog, Soldier) along the river in the opening scene of the novel. Practically everything seems to stand for something else. But we won't be that different from Tecumseh himself if we find ourselves often wondering what.

Truth and Bright Water seem to be places where several versions of the truth co-exist. Take Tecumseh's parents, for example. There is Tecumseh's mother's version of their story. And there is his father's version. And then there is his grandmother's version. And his Aunt Cassie's version. Tecumseh has his own version, of course. But he doesn't have all the facts, and he hasn't totally made up his mind about it. So which version is true--is it the version the reader makes up for him or herself?

Complicating all this still further is the fact that the entire story is told from Tecumseh's point of view, and like most teenagers, he's not always the most reliable. Several times in the novel Tecumseh offers rather "revisionist" versions of the truth to certain of the other characters. An activity (re-visioning, that is) in which he is joined by Monroe Swimmer, a "famous Indian artist" who once painted the Indians "back in" to many famous nineteenth-century paintings and who has returned to Truth to "save the world."

King's writing is vivid and evocative, and the mysteries surrounding Truth and Bright Water, compelling. While I won't spoil the ending, I will say it's powerful, climactic, and incredibly emotionally resonant. Still not completely certain what it means, I've pondered it and pondered it and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
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