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3.28  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  36 reviews
For her acclaimed collection of stories, Red Ant House, Joyce Carol Oates hailed Ann Cummins as “a master storyteller.” The San Francisco Chronicle called her “startlingly original.” Now, in her debut novel, Cummins stakes claim to rich new literary territory with a story of straddling cultures and cheating fate in the American Southwest.
Yellowcake introduces us to two unf
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published March 15th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  181 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Nancy Lewis
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
A well-constructed novel about the intersection of two cultures in rural New Mexico. The characters and setting are imperfect in just the right ways. One of the main characters doesn't even show up until the very end, but it's not one page before she should have. ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
The plot of Ann Cummins' first novel, 'Yellowcake,' seems to suggest that we're in for a pretty shrill experience: Native Americans dying from chemical exposure at a shuttered uranium mine. Regardless of your politics, that looks like a beam of white guilt that will irradiate all subtlety. Discovering that Cummins delivers something far more nuanced is just one of many surprises in this rich and touching ...more
Aug 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: indian outlaws
This book is not a coming of age story.
Or maybe it is.
I really liked it. Every player grows on you, and even tho it is about a group of people spanning generations I loved them equally.
well... I kind of loved Delmar the most.
Really good read and I will look for things by this lady again.
Go go Holgate library randomly picked books!
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the Tuba City Trading Post in Arizona while on a book research trip in the Four Corners area. Having just been where this book takes place, and having spent time with some Navajo acquaintances, it meant more to me. The characters are interesting (though I found the beginning of the book slow)and unpredictable enough to keep the plot moving along.
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary_fiction
I really appreciated Cummins's respectful, nuanced portrayal of both Navajo culture in the SW U.S. and Navajo-white interactions in a former uranium-mining town. She clearly did her research. And all the characters were complex, compelling, sympathetic even when they hurt other people. Highly recommended. ...more
Jun 19, 2008 rated it liked it
This is an author I think is unusually gifted. She is writing about a culture and a place that isn't written about enough. The writing is sharp, and the detail is clear. She understands the human condition... Still, I wanted to have a few more rays of hope and joy. ...more
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Morally complex story about whites, Navajo, and uranium mining in the southwest. I liked that the book didn't give any easy answers. ...more
Caitlin Batstone
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
I didn't care for any of the characters really. Sam's thought process disappeared so we never knew why he stole the money. Nothing sparkled. ...more
Dec 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was well written and I liked the layout (different perspective each chapter). However, I kept waiting for something to happen, someone to learn something. It never happened. Delmar was still on parole, Sam never learns anything, Lily doesn't get help, Ryland is dying, Becky is mad, and the world keeps turning. I'm glad I read it but I'm not sure I'll be suggesting it to anyone unless they're interested in uranium.

Feelings: indifference, patience.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I really really enjoyed reading this book but, all of a sudden, it was over, and I felt cheated by all the loose ends. Real life may not offer much in the way of closure but somehow I felt I deserved to know more about the fate of these (mostly) beloved characters.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was hoping this was going to be a good read. It too way too long to get to the main storyline.
Patricia M
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Life after powerful social forces do their damage.
Teresa Keatts
Mar 05, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Tried three times to read this story but too boring for my taste, the more I read the more I felt I was wasting my time.
Barbara Rhine
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The characters are still with me in detail days after I finished the book. Ryland, the older white guy suffering from what uranium exposure wrought in his body, is still not willing to attend any of the meetings that seek compensation. He was a boss, and when he looks at his role, he still feels his life was good. Detailed portrait of daily rounds of a certain type of white family on whose good will this country is founded. His friend Sam, a bit of a ne'er do well with a drinking problem, but at ...more
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: native-american
I really wanted to like this book more. I'm currently living on the Navajo rez and this book is all about the uranium contamination and uranium mining that took place near Shiprock, NM in the 1940s-1970s. It evoked a lot of imagery and beautiful scenes that reminded me of places I'd been and people I'd met. I think Cummings does do a good job of realistically describing a lot of the intricacies of the res. But, the characters really left something to be desired. I've come to realize that I just ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
The title refers to a product of uranium processing. The story is about the lives of retired mill workers and their families, 17 years after the mine on a Navajo reservation closed.

The story is complex and well crafted. There is lots of realistic detail and dialogue, as well as the points of view of two generations, white and Navajo and mixed-race. Ryland Mahoney, former boss of the mill, exhibits a pride in his work that seems antique, part of our nation in a different era, when manufacturing
May 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this. The story of the Navajo and white community surrounding a former Uranium mining site is incredibly complex. The characters' interwoven stories are really engaging. I liked that all the characters were compelling -- sometimes in books with multiple perspectives, one person is more interesting, but that wasn't the case here. (Although I really wanted to see Alice's perspective, because she remained a mystery to me -- what did she see in Sam? How did she feel about Delmar? Wh ...more
Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dan warned me that the characters were difficult to keep track of in this novel, so I paid extra attention to them in the beginning. As a result, I ended up enjoying a few of them in particular and the plot in general. Set in northwestern New Mexico, the story addresses the plight of uranium millworkers after years of working in a local factory without proper safety equipment. As two millworkers die of lung diseases, we see their family dramas unfold. Cummins does an excellent job of exploring q ...more
Megan Blosser
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
I hoped this book would becoming compelling, but it missed the mark. There were so many possibilities for a driving storyline and somehow each just petered out. I felt I made very little connection to any of the characters, which could be in part because they all seemed to be just floating through existence with no real purpose. Delmar was the closest to being relatable; Sam and Ryland were entirely out of touch (though not for lack of trying by the author, they just didn't gel with me). I also ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: donated, fiction
Story of 3 men who worked together in a uranium mill on a reservation. Their 3 lives and families are intertwined, but separated culture, white and Indian. Complex set of characters, very real, no real good guys, no real bad guys, Just people trying to get by. This book was recommended to me by a friend who is always trying to get me to read something other than mysteries. This one was good.
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is closer to a 3.5-star book, but I did enjoy the variety of characters and the reservation setting. I felt like a couple of the story arcs were left a little too unresolved (particularly Lily), but I was also glad that it was more about the people than about the movement to bring the lawsuit against the uranium mine. A very interesting portrait of the mining town and Navajo reservation.
Debbie Fowler
It was interesting to read about our town and nearby communities in this book, not to mention the connection to the Navajo people, culture and language. I was not too impressed with the story line and how the book ended. However, the reality of how the uranium mining in our backyard has affected our families is still very disturbing, and hits too close to home for me.
May 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching-writing
This book didn't really draw me in as much as I hoped. I read it for use in my IRW class, however, and I believe it'll be useful there. We will be discussing language and identity a lot, and this is perfect for that. Cummins does a lovely job of anchoring this story in place, and I believe my students will find it accessible but challenging. ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Loved this book and couldn't put it down. However, was really disappointed at the end - absolutely no resolution to any of the story lines in the book. It badly needs a sequel to tie up the myriad loose ends. ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like to be bored
Six hours of my life that I will never get back.
Jeanette Torok
Dec 14, 2007 marked it as to-read
Haven't gotten to this one either! ...more
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: probably nobody
This book was okay. I expected to learn more about the whole uranium thing.
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
I found it very difficult to get into this book. And I never really got engaged in the story. Turned off by the sick guy's lung problems. ...more
Rachael Drullinger
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
The author is my aunt, and I enjoyed reading the story because I was able to see much of my family in the characters.
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Where is the end of this book? It was like falling off a cliff when I realized there were no more pages left.
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