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Shell Shaker

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  46 reviews
"A dangerous enemy has arrived on our shores with weapons of fire . . . He's a very different kind of Wasano, bloodsucker, he always hungers for more".—from Shell Shaker

The action in this debut novel alternates between 1738, as a Choctaw family prepares for war against the English, and the 1990s, as their Oklahoma descendants, the Billys, fight a Mafia takeover of the trib
Paperback, 227 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Aunt Lute Books
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  518 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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To my dearest department of English: thank you for making me read this book! I'm not sure if I would have encountered it otherwise, and it was excellent! I look forward to reading critical pieces about this work and reading more by Howe (yes, I know what I nerd I am).

Shell Shaker has a plot which is difficult to summarize. It is primarily about a female Choctaw family, the legends of their tribe and their struggles to deal with corruption in their tribe. I know that's really vague, but I don't w
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Delicious book. Blown away.
Gruesome. Just the right amount of magical/tribal realism. Humorous and deeply moving.
Ai Miller
Oh my gosh this book was just absolutely gorgeous and incredible. The intertwining stories were just incredible--and easy to follow, which is something I often struggle with when reading books like this. But this was not only so clear and connected but it also was just so beautifully crafted? There were so many beautiful, beautiful lines and I blew through it so quickly because I just could not put it down. Such a gorgeous, amazing book, and I want so many other people to read it.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I read it for my Women's Literature class and it grasped me by the hands and pulled me along a beautifully detailed account of history, repetition, and murder in the Choctaw community in Oklahoma. A fantastic fictional piece that I will most certainly read again!
Michelle Boyer-Kelly
A deeply entertaining story about what happens when Shell Shakers of the past unite with women today that are in need of help, especially when it comes to removing dirty politicians from office. Great story. A lot of traditional Choctaw information woven into a contemporary story. It took me some time to get into the story, but once I did, I could not put it down.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender, fiction
There's so much *in* this novel - history, culture, politics - but all I ever felt reading it was carried along by a kinda-sorta-nah-not-really mystery novel. It's not quite right to say that it isn't a genre book - it has the tight pacing and just-one-more-page of great crime and suspense writing, but Howe takes what she needs from the form, and leaves the rest behind. In its place, she has a story of women, women at the centre of a community and a culture, navigating their lives in the modern ...more
Nov 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great book! kind of artsy (not in a bad way) but maybe that's b/c I haven't read much fiction lately. confusing at times it jumps between two different time spacesr, so it's not the kind of book you can just sit back you have to engage yourself with it. Once you get to the end the confusing part makes sense because there is a twist to the book which is definately a pay off. This book is fiction, but it discusses real issues the Choctaw peoples face. Self governance being influenced from the outs ...more
Ms. Traeger Traeger
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is tragic and funny and uplifting and suspense-filled. It's complicated (I made a character family tree in the back flap of my copy to help), but absolutely worth the investment of time. The story alternates between a modern day murder mystery related to casino money on a tribal reservation and a murder that happened in the 1700's in the same tribe. In order to solve the modern mystery, the characters must resolve the problems of their ancestors. Author LeAnne Howe a professor and teac ...more
English Education
Oct 28, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: native-american, tory
A chronicle that hops between the 1990s and 1738, a narration about the Chocotaw nation and how one bad decision still follows a family of Indian's today. This novel is about reconciliation between family members and the past and the present as well.

Teachers will like this because it provides a different look into the lives of present day Indians and how many have become well off on their own. Furthermore the novel illustrates the family dynamic and the power of women within them and society.

May 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading this while having a glass of wine on Jerome's pontoon one summer. It's funny and complicated and intense. It's a mystery that takes place in contemporary times and the 1700's. It's about family and community and righting the wrongs of the past. I loved this book so much that I taught it twice and author LeAnne Howe came to speak to my classes once. It's a super book that no one has read. You should!
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The story follows a clan of Choctaw women (mostly) in two timelines, the 1750's and the 1990's. It's mystical and reverent and an excellent tale to read on a rainy day with dark chocolate and wine. At times it's a little confusing to figure out just exactly who you're reading about, but the book is well worth the effort. I enjoyed learning about all the Choctaw lore.
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
this is an awesome fiction suspensful and very hard to put down..A++++ rating
Dec 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: strong women
I read this book for a Native American Literature class so I had some guidance in reading it and a lot of good discussion. But it is a good story and inspiring for women.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love LeAnne Howe. This book briefly had me accepting things I wouldn't normally consider like necrophilia as practical and sexy.
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So uniquely written and absolutely fascinating the way Howe connects the past with the present.
Don Flynn
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
A mystery that takes place both in the past and present, steeped in ancient traditions and modern survival within a hostile society. The best Native novel I've read since Fool's Crow.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Native American novel that was by no means eurocentric. It was wonderful to read a book about something so far from myself.
Kaylee Palomino
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was my first novel about Native American culture, and people who are looking to diversify their reading and library collections, this is great for understanding Native American literature. Howe does an excellent job of explaining Choctaw culture through her detailed descriptions. She executes her switching from past to present very well, while also clearly showing the reincarnation of kindred spirits within a family lineage. Not only does Howe center her novel around Choctaw culture, but sh ...more
Jan Cole
Oct 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
I read this for Let's Talk About It, Oklahoma. We haven't had the discussion yet and I hope it adds to my understanding. The plot jumps from the 1700's to the 1990's with murders of two chiefs of the Choctaw tribe. At least that's what I think was happening. A lot of Indian words and phrases are written in with no definition so there were many gaps in my understanding.
Many times the story would revert to a dream state with symbolic animals. The Mafia was included. It's violent and gave me nightm
Melissa Walcott
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it

Upon finishing the novel, I am content and pleased with the structure of the novel and overall history that I have learned contrasting with Cherokee history. I really enjoyed the way LeAnne Howe structured Shell Shaker with glances of the past and how she blurred the lines between reality and the spiritual world presented in the religion of the Choctaw. The characters were also excellently written and I not once found myself bored or detached from the story.
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was interesting but there were a lot of character names, that sometimes I lost track of who was who. I liked learning more about indigenous cultures, like that of the Choctaws. I learned a lot about the way they view life, death and spirits and it is unlike anything I have learned before.
Ryan Rusian
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It's not for me, and it won't be for most people, but I still liked it. Any book that makes as good a use of language, history, and culture as Shell Shaker can never be bad.
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this for my 20th Century American Literature class. It was good, very exciting and educational. But it was also very confusing at times. So many characters to keep up with!
Laura Catherine
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I had higher hopes for this book. It was alllllllmost sci-fi, but with an odd twist of unpleasantness. I think I had set myself up for historical fiction, and this isn’t what it was.
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indigenous
Amazing, amazing book
Small Decisions
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a damn fine novel. Good writing, complex characters, unique style, I've never read anything like it before.
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not something I normally pick up but I really loved it. I wish more people talked about this book.
Maarten Wagemakers
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
"Shell Shaker" offers an interesting insight into Chocktaw traditions and culture, bridging a (supernatural) gap between events from the 18th and the 20th century to solve a murder mystery that isn't really one.
After a promising start the novel did suffer a bit from "style over substance" however. It is high on animal spirits, disembodied voices, hamfisted history lessons through character vision blackouts (apparently a common occurence among the cast), and magic mud, while the characters thems
Daniel Triumph
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Actually very good. A lot of interesting cultural information. The author, being a academic, did her research. The narrative itself is very interesting, and we see the past not only inform, but literally live on into the present, even blending together with it near the end.

I detract a star (only one) for the execution. I feel we don't really have time to get to know characters with the way the narrative is structured, and I think there are some parts that are "edgy."

Otherwise, a well worth read.
Oct 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Native Americans
Shelves: for-school
Started out strong, but then there was just too much of a supernatural aspect to keep me interested. The writing was very good, and I loved Howe's humor, but I just couldn't relate to the Native American culture that defines the book main themes and events. Despite all that, it was still interesting and different from any other modern novel I've ever read. So it was a fun experience, I suppose. But Native American literature just isn't for me, I guess. At least, not with all the supernatural stu ...more
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LeAnne Howe is the author of three books, including Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (Aunt Lute Books, 2007), and is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. In 2006-2007 she was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. She was the screenwriter for Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire, a 90-minute PBS documentary released in November 2006. Howe's fir ...more

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