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Quiet Until the Thaw

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  772 ratings  ·  174 reviews
From bestselling memoirist Alexandra Fuller, a debut novel.

Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota. Two Native American cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson, though bound by blood and by land, find themselves at odds as they grapple with the implications of their shared heritage. When escalating anger towards the injustices, historical and current, infli
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 27th 2017 by Penguin Press
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Angela M
3+ stars

What first drew me to this book was the beautiful title. I didn't know until I received an advanced copy of it that it was a name from a Swampy Cree poem. One of the characters Rick Overlooking Horse doesn't talk very much so he is compared to the woman in the poem. The names and their meanings and the reasons why people are named as they are is just one of the things that fascinated me in learning some of the culture of the Lakotas that is reflected in the story.

I was hoping to love th
May 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
As an enrolled member of the Tohono O'odham nation (the tribe that is called Pima and Maricopa in this book) and a former resident of one of the Eight Northern Pueblos, I went into this book prepared to be very critical. I'm extremely uncomfortable about the idea of a white woman writing about the experiences of Native people, especially when said white woman grew up in colonial Africa. I am against the idea that any white person should write from the point of view of a Native person. They will ...more
“Rick Overlooking Horse said this time of night was for old people and children, the keepers of the wisdom. People in the middle of their years were busier, often doing unwise things, he said. They needed their sleep.”

So where do YOU fit into the scheme of things? Old or young and thoughtful? Or busy and unwise and tired? This is an unusual debut novel from a published author of non-fiction. Fuller, born in England and raised in southern Africa, has channelled her ‘inner Lakota’ to write the s
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Alexandra Fuller's first novel, Quiet Until the Thaw, is many things at once in its style and substance, but what left a lingering impression is its way of easily introducing the reader to the culture, beliefs, and history of the Lakota Oglala, while also itself being a sort of fable, filled with smaller narratives all connected into a larger whole. It's written in short, staccato paragraphs and chapters, told from the perspective of a sort of Sioux chorus, dipping in and out of the specific nar ...more
Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota

A provocative story of an ancient tribe, an honorable history, an uncertain future, and the people who carry their voices forward.

Grandmother Mina Overlooking Horse raised the two cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson who were born within a few weeks of each other and were left with her to raise. She had to make sense about their choices to be born at the particular time in history to their particular parents. Their paths will turn out very
Feb 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
I am definitely NOT enjoying this........ I hope to finish it soon. The sooner the better. The best thing about it is that it is very short.


I was extremely disappointed with this book. I have absolutely adored all of the author's autobiographical works set in Africa. Her book The Legend of Colton H. Bryant is also biographical but is not autobiographical and does not reach up to the quality of those books where she speaks of her own family and close friends.

There is no depth t
Travel Writing
There are so many excellent Native American writers. Why bother read a book about Native Americans written by a white woman, who was raised as a white kid in Apartheid. She was raised in the oppressor class, you get that right? She was raised entitled, white, and during Apartheid.

You would be hard pressed to find someone LESS qualified then Alexandra Fuller to write a book about Native Americans.

Not just writing about them, but as if she is one. She wrote this book as if she has an inner under
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't enjoy this one. I wanted to. The blip on the jacket sounded great, but it left me feeling glad it was over. It covered so many things and for being such a short book, I'm not sure that wholly worked.

I appreciated the effort in detail, but much of that was a bunch of broad sweeping strokes that lacked the detail I enjoy, especially when it comes to emotion. The Indian detail was clear and present, but I guess I was wanting understanding. I crave that kind of connection and I must have mi
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
"Life is a circle and we as common people are created to stand within it and not on it. I am not just of the past but I am the past. I am here. I am now and I will be for tomorrow." Oglala Lakota maxim

Alexandra Fuller spent most of her life in Africa. In her letter which opens the galley of her debut novel Quiet Until the Thaw she writes that in encountering the Lakota Oglala Sioux she found an "unexpected homecoming, if home is where your soul can settle in recognition." The Native Americans we
Karen Kay
I received this ARC from in exchange for a review.

A quick read at 250+ pages, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson are cousins whose personalities are defined by their choices and circumstances.

The story is kind of disjointed. Throughout the book, I'm thinking the author is trying to say something but I'm unable to decipher what it is ... then I read the book description again and decided this must be it. As Fuller writes, "The belief that we can be done with our past is a
I'm seriously not sure what I read, but it was amusingly told by a rather self-aware narrator. Not much is actually amusing. It's a generational tale, one old lady reluctantly fosters her grandson Rick Overlooking Horse, and another child of uncertain provenance, You Choose Watson. Rick is stoic, upstanding and hardly says a word. You Choose is a whole lot more gregarious, and quick to temper. He's a draft dodger whereas Rick gets himself caught in a friendly napalm explosion and loses an eye.

Steve Martinson
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in American Indian culture
Recommended to Steve by: Goodreads
I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I don't know for sure if I want to give this 4 stars or 3. A very interesting book about life on the "Rez", and the traditional teachings of the Lakota Tribe, but kind of a strong sense that the white man is the only one to blame. I am not Indian, but I have lived in eastern South Dakota my entire 64 years. This is a sad story, but I just want to point out that there are no winners, no matter what side you take. I remember a bit about the events that Ms. ...more
Polly Krize
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The culture and oppression of the Lakota Oglala is well told in this story of two cousins, and the diverse directions their life choices takes them. I am not certain, though, that the author, a white woman, is fully qualified to basically speak for the Lakota Oglala, however much time she spent with them. Only my opinion.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a tough book to review because I can't tease the story away from the person who wrote it and what that means within a larger context. Fuller is a talented writer, in that her short chapters are like delicate pieces of art. However, the story as a whole is more complicated. No matter how beautifully told, this is still a story about a people of which Fuller does not pertain. She spent three months on the Pine Ridge Reservation for research and that seems like a woefully small amount of ti ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Alexandra Fuller’s exploration of contemporary Native American life follows the lives of cousins Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson as they each navigate their path through an often difficult and conflicted existence. Each chooses a different approach; one tries to live peacefully, the other chooses violence, and their lives become inextricably entwined. It’s not so much a conventional narrative as a series of vignettes, taking the reader deep into the reservation and examining issues ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: beach_reads, fiction
ARC. Didn't realize it was fiction. Three page chapters, no character development and minimal story. Why would she think she could tell Lakota story?
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Fuller is clearly a talented writer, but there are deeper political issues at play in her writing of this particular novel. It simply isn't her story to write, quite frankly. And it just seems bizarre how unaware or unbothered she is by the ironies of her authoring an 'authentic Indian novel.'

If this sort of novel is remotely of interest to you, *PLEASE* support Native artists of the US, Canada, and Australia FIRST. There are the obvious big names: Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, Linda Hogan, T
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: con-ficition, history
Alexandra Fuller's Quiet Until the Thaw is a compelling novel that manages to be funny and sad, satiric and sincere, clever...and deadly serious about the history of the government's policies concerning Native Americans and the way those policies have played out.

In a portion about the forced removal of children from their families to place them in Indian Boarding Schools (which were mostly shut down by 2007), Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson are caught running to escape the Bureau of
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Alexandra Fuller is a marvelous writer and is definitely not afraid to share a point of view, even in fiction. This is a very thoughtful and interesting short novel which illustrates the plight of our Native Americans. I definitely recommend it.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kayt

Quiet Until the Thaw
Author: Alexandra Fuller
ISBN13: 9780735223349
Author website:
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt


From bestselling memoirist Alexandra Fuller, a debut novel.

Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota. Two Native American cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson, though bound by blood and by land, find themselves at odds as they grapple with the implications of their shared heritage. When esc
Carol Waters
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
What amazed me about this book wasn't so much the story itself- the comparison of two cousins, one with a useless Cowboy father and an absent Lakota mother, and one with two Native parents, but about the uproar from reviewers who believe that one can only write about what one personally experiences, and decry with outrage the efforts of a female non-Native woman writing about these men and their families.

If the reviewers who attack Fuller's writing as "cultural appropriation" are supported, the
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
There's a lot of debate about whether or not Alexandra Fuller, a white British woman who grew up in Africa, has the right to write a story about the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation with a Lakota narrator. It's also asked as to why read her writing when there are many Native American writers to explore? Some say that she depicts her characters in stereotypical ways-- checking off all the boxes of the Native American trope. She, because of her color and background they say, is not qualified. But I have ...more
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I purchased this at a bookstore in Penn station while waiting for a train this summer. I saw the story was about the Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation in SD, and having enjoyed other Native American stories (Marmon Silko and Alexie, to name a few), I bought it.

However, upon closer reading, I found it is written by an English writer who moved to southern Africa before moving to Wyoming. Knowing this, I wondered if the book would be able to pull-off a story on the Lakota people or just be stereo-types of
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is sad indeed when art becomes balkanized by a movement that misinterprets cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation exists because white people have appropriated words and symbols from other cultures and adopted them as their own. Chippewa, from the word “Ojibwe”, is a good example. No thought whatsoever was given to the effect of not acknowledging this cultural theft. People whose words, symbols and spiritual meanings were taken without permission understandably feel offended, devalued
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm torn on this one. If I could give it 2.5 stars I would.

First the good: I think the author's writing style is excellent. It's the sort of book that sucks you in and you find you can't stop reading until the very end. Some of the scenes described were moving, so much so that I found I had to pause briefly reading just to take it all in and process it.

Now for the bad: The stereotypes presented of native people in this book made me cringe... repeatedly. Actually, I think every single one was th
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was a bit disappointed in this book. I particularly enjoyed Fuller's memoir Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight and was looking forward to reading this book. Fuller is a talented writer and I enjoy her style, and I can say that this novel was easy to read and had a great deal of promise in my opinion. However the execution in this case left something to be desired. The chapters were *extremely* brief vignettes, in most cases just a page or 2. While the thread continued from chapter to chapter, i ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read with interest the concerns of Native American readers who found problems with Fuller's representation of Oglala culture. I started reading this book and found the poetic style interesting, but it sounded stereotypic. It was as if the author made the decision that here is a people whose lives are, in their tragedy and special connection to the world around them, poetic/romantic representations of life.

Even when the characters are suffering, they are poetic--these are true soulful people w
Aug 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I had such a hard time with this book, not because of the narrative or style, but because of the author's background, which one one level shouldn't matter, but on another level - given the access to the opportunity to get your work published (and that's just the tip of the iceberg) matters a great deal. In terms of making creative work, cultural appropriation is a very hot topic these days, and I appreciate being able to have that conversation. It's made me start to examine my own work and look ...more
Quiet Until the Thaw is the debut novel by Alexandra Fuller, an author known for her memoirs. It tells the story of two Lakota Oglala Sioux cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Chose Watson. Though linked from birth and their shared experience being raised by their grandmother, the two boys take a different path in life. You Chose is the wild one who does not settle down. On the other hand, Rick is the quiet, contemplative one who prefers solitude yet is unafraid on taking a stand when needed ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This is one of those books that I admired more than liked. I was interested to read the first novel from memoirist Alexandra Fuller, and the contemporary American Indian reservation setting was one that I hadn't encountered before and it intrigued me. The writing in the book, which tells the story of two sets of orphaned Lakota Oglala boys growing up generations apart on their South Dakota reservation, is incredibly spare and almost terse, with chapters that usually last only a page or two--perh ...more
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Alexandra Fuller has written five books of non-fiction.

Her debut book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (Random House, 2001), was a New York Times Notable Book for 2002, the 2002 Booksense best non-fiction book, a finalist for the Guardian’s First Book Award and the winner of the 2002 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize.

Her 2004 Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldie
“How much strength must one people have?
And for how long must they have it?”
“...but of course any time we become something other than ourselves, it is just death by another name.” 0 likes
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