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Where the Dead Sit Talking

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  3,049 ratings  ·  476 reviews
National Book Award finalist
Best book of 2018: Kirkus, Southern Living, and NPR Code Switch
Reading the West Book Award winner
Aspen Words Literary Prize longlist
2020 International Dublin Literary Award longlist

Set in rural Oklahoma during the late 1980s, Where the Dead Sit Talking is a startling, authentically voiced and lyrically written Native American coming-of-age story
Paperback, 289 pages
Published February 20th 2018 by Soho Press
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Anastasia Yes, definitely. I listened to it on audio and went back two minutes to try to figure out what I had missed. Nothing. It just ended, as you wrote, abr…moreYes, definitely. I listened to it on audio and went back two minutes to try to figure out what I had missed. Nothing. It just ended, as you wrote, abruptly.(less)

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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,049 ratings  ·  476 reviews

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Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Very atmospheric. The protagonist is interesting and dark and at times perplexing. There is a lot to admire here but overall the narrative feels too tightly controlled, too unrelenting. Well worth checking out.
lark benobi
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, soho
I am so very pleased that this beautifully crafted and empathetic novel has made the short list for the National Book Award!

This novel is simply told, but it isn't a simple story on any level. It's a devastating chronicle of a young person growing up in desperate circumstances. It's an indictment of a social system in which children have no chance to escape poverty and neglect. It's a story of what survival looks like when there is no chance of a happy ending.

The story is narrated by Sequoyah, a
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Set in rural Oklahoma during the late 1980s, Where the Dead Sit Talking charts the rise and fall of a bond between two Native American teens, Rosemary and Sequoyah, who share the same foster home. The coming-of-age novel is told from the perspective of an older Sequoyah, who begins at the story's end, with Rosemary's death, and then jumps to the moment he first met his foster family. Much of the narrative focuses on Sequoyah's relationship with Rosemary, whom he alternately idealizes and vilifie ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: usa, 2018-read, 2018-nba
Shortlisted for (and hopefully winning) the National Book Award 2018
This coming-of-age novel draws its power and intensity from the perfect portrayal of its protagonist Sequoyah, a 15-year-old Cherokee teen. When his mother is jailed for drug charges, he ends up in foster care and - as we learn on page one, so no spoiler here - sees his foster sibling Rosemary die. Hobson does a fantastic job portraying Sequoyah's troubled mind, and as the story is told from the point of view of an older Sequoy
Rene Denfeld
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy moly this is good. I loved this book not just as a writer—the lyricism is profound, the prose both eerie and elegant—but as a longtime foster parent and survivor of childhood trauma myself. It is so rare to find books that capture the truth of foster care. Hobson doesn't turns foster teens into yet another literary trope about bad seeds but instead digs deeply into what it is like to feel thrown away. I'm embarrassed I didn't read this fine novel earlier, and now count myself among Hobson's ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, netgalley
Book to be published February 2018

1980's Oklahoma. At times, a rather dark tale, Where the Dead Sit Talking, is not for the faint of heart. Brandon Hobson's teenage character, Sequoyah, has been abandoned by his father, his mother is in prison, and he had been placed in foster care. Drugs, suicide, sexual awakening/identity are just some of the topics covered within these pages.

At times, I felt a bit unsure and disturbed by the unsettling thoughts that raged in Sequoyah 's mind. Even as I am n
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comments after rereading:
I’ve now reread Where the Dead Sit Talking, with even greater enjoyment than from my first reading. I come away with more appreciation for Brandon Hobson’s abilities to breathe life into a story and its characters. Hobson retains nuance and subtlety by inviting the reader to infer key facts about Sequoyah especially, as well as Rosemary and George. Where the Dead Sit Talking is a rare novel that not only stands up to a rereading, but benefits from it.

Comments after firs
Canadian Reader
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Where The Bored Sit Reading.

Apologies to valued friends who were stunned by this one but it didn't do it for me. There was more than a hint of promise unfulfilled.

The unsettling story of a teen Cherokee foster child with attachment disorder is interestingly structured and does have its merits. I liked the nonlinear way we learn of both past and present events, for example. The themes are very powerful (preoccupation with violence and death, prophetic dreams, the spirit world, obfuscation and lie
Erin Glover
Sequoyah, one-half Cherokee Indian, is somewhere in his tween years when he flees in an El Camino with his alcoholic mother to Tulsa to escape her abusive boyfriends. When he’s 11-years-old, the hot bacon grease on the spatula his mother waves around while she’s on the phone, badly burns his face and neck, scarring him inside as well as out. By the time he’s 14, he’s living in a shelter since his mother is in prison for three years for possession of drug paraphernalia and driving while intoxicat ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
National Book Award Longlist 2018. Native American Hobson has written a dark tale about 15-year-old Sequoyah who is a ward of the state, as his mother is in prison on drug charges. After some time spent in institutional settings, and some in unsatisfactory foster care; he is placed in the home of Agnes and Harold Troutt. This couple is already fostering 13-year-old George and 17-year-old Rosemary. All three children have emotional damage: George has a number of quirky habits and sleepwalks; Rose ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Checking another book from the NBA longlist off my list with this novel about a Native American boy adrift in the foster care system. With his mother in prison and his father missing, he finally makes his way to a caring foster family that includes two other troubled teens. The book begins by telling us that his foster sister is dead and then reviews their relationship. Throughout, the voice is calm, but there is a rage and trauma underneath that the narrator tries to tamp down. It occasionally ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2018
Understated and incredibly powerful.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is another read from the National Book Award finalist list. I felt like the life of Sequoyah, a teenaged foster boy, is well represented in how he views the world and interacts with others. The pacing of the book didn't work as well for me, as it tends to race through really important moments. There is a lot of violence alongside what I might call disassociation, which seems about right.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy through NetGalley.
Katie Long
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sequoyah is a teenager moving through the foster care system after his mother is sent to prison. Hobson writes so beautifully of the emotional, and even physical, toll their unstable upbringings have on Sequoyah, and the other two foster children in the home, Rosemary and George. It is never simply anger, or fear, or sadness, or loneliness, it is all of these feelings at once. Along with love, and relief, and guilt, and pride, and confusion, and well…everything. These are characters I will not s ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hobson has a fresh way of viewing the world and in this instance through the eyes of a teenage foster child, Sequoyah, who has just joined his latest family. He becomes enamoured of an older resident in his new home who also is Native American and they bound in a heartwarming yet also twisted kind of way...kind of how many teenage relationships are formed. Though their foster parents are odd as well they’re not bad people and seem sincerely trying to care for the three kids, which includes a pre ...more
David Tromblay
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hobson does an amazing job of immersing readers into a hauntingly familiar reality for far too many teens through the retrospective treatment of an adult who survived it all (something that is wholeheartedly needed and long overdue). This story is filled with fantastical asides that busy the minds of teens as well as the most entertaining adults. However, if you pay attention, you'll see Hobson doesn't simply do this to fill pages, he is a craftsman who knows how to build a scaffolded narrative ...more
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where the Dead Sit Talking is a painful read, a book filled with profound suffering, beautifully told. Sequoyah’s life is filled with anguish: a mother incapable of looking after him, a foster sister kindred soul who feels she must end her life. Brandon Hobson’s poetic style enables the reader to care deeply about his characters. In spite of the multi-layered story being told by an unreliable narrator, it remains gripping throughout. A triumph!
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Haunting, beautifully written novel that crept under my skin and still won't let go. Sequoyah is a compelling narrator, by turns terse and lyrical, sympathetic and difficult. Hobson's vision is compassionate and all-embracing, which means embracing darkness as much as light. ...more
Benjamin Myers
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderfully written story that kept me up late, unwilling to put the book down. The narrator's voice is perfect. The story manages somehow to be simultaneously tender and ominous. The characters are compelling and believable. ...more
David Rice
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tender, moving, creepy -- an all-around great coming-of-age novel combined with a philosophical investigation into the nature of death and identity.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: high school
Shelves: indigenous-ya
In reading through the responses to Where the Dead Sit Talking, it is not surprising that some who read this are sickened by the brutality that Youth of Color who are members of First Nations have been exposed to in the Oklahoma State foster care system. The racist and callous treatment is a societal trait encountered by many and what I call abominable. Look at the treatment of Oklahoma teachers who are striking for a living wage so they can pay for their rent or mortgage. The legislature saw a ...more
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Where The Dead Sit Talking” is a 2018 National Book Finalist and listed on many “top 2018” lists. Author Brandon Hobson explores the Native American Culture, particularly the Cherokee Nation culture in Oklahoma. His protagonist, Sequoyah is fifteen, and placed in the foster care system. His mother had reoccurring substance abuse issues which place him in a system he wanted no part.

Hobson has said he wanted to write about Native American identity, especially in adolescents who are trying to find
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part of a new wave of Native American writers, Brandon Hobson tells the story of Sequoyah, a teenage boy (named after the man who created the Cherokee written language.) After his alcoholic mother is sent to jail, Sequoyah becomes enmeshed in the care system. After being sent to a foster home in rural Oklahoma, it seems things are looking up. But his friendship with Rosemary, another Indian foster child, turns into obsession. On the face of it, 'Where the Dead Sit Talking' is a coming-of-age nov ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read it because of my shared Native American heritage with the MC and the author, but I was honestly disappointed. It felt like there were random thoughts and events just thrown in that really didn't add to the story, but were shocking. I almost bailed a few times, but I kept hoping it would tie together in the end, but unfortunately it didn't. I see really high ratings on this book, so maybe it's just me and I hope others enjoy it more than me. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where the Dead Sit Talking explores the difficult coming-of-age of Sequoyah, a teenage boy of Cherokee heritage thrust into the U.S. foster care system after his mother’s imprisonment. Hobson brings to light key issues such as racism, mental health, child welfare, and corruption through Sequoyah’s twisted perspective. Adult figures are portrayed as untrustworthy, and even adults in support roles, such as Sequoyah’s foster parents and case worker, are displayed as well-meaning yet flawed. One of ...more
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading 'Where the Dead Sit Talking.' What an astonishing book. Beautiful and brutal, you balance intense subject matter with compassion and subtlety. Sequoyah is a fantastic narrator - unreliable, compelling, conflicted and sympathetic. Blew me away. ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful, chilling writing!
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2018, indigenous
Set in late 1980's rural Oklahoma, "Where the Dead Sit Talking" is the sad, dark tale of a 15-year-old Native American teenager named Sequoyah, sent to live with a foster family after his mother's imprisonment. From the outset of the novel, it is evident that Sequoyah carries many emotional scars, having dealt with his mother's alcoholism and abuse in previous detention settings.

Harold and Agnes Troutt are also the foster parents of two other children: George, a younger, also emotionally damage
Ron S
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
While there'd be nothing technically wrong with saying this book is "a spare, lyrical Native American coming of age story set in rural Oklahoma in the late 1980s" that's a bit too tidy and easy a description for this book. Going to live with a new foster family, 15 year old Sequoyah is scarred inside and out and feels sick most of the time with head and stomach aches. He has a lot of weird thoughts and behaviours he doesn't understand, and becomes obsessed with 17 year old Rosemary, another fost ...more
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Dr. Brandon Hobson is an American writer. His novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, was a finalist for the National Book Award. He is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and also teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma.

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