Wynne Kontos's Reviews > The Only Good Indians

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
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it was amazing

Erik and I finished a movie late, around midnight, and he didn't want to go to bed. I grumped to him that I didn't want to go to bed later than two. Maybe I'd read in bed a little until he joined me, I thought, though I wasn't sure if I wanted to read my current book, THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones, this late into a dark night.

Fast forward to two-fifteen AM with Erik falling asleep next to me with the book clutched in my fingers, while I finished the breathless last twenty pages. Just half an hour before, Erik found me in bed and said, "That scary huh?" I must've had a look on my face.

The only other book I've been afraid to keep in my room was a Caroline B. Cooney mystery in middle school that I had to hide deep in my mom's office so she wouldn't find it and demand I put it back on my own shelves. This was the second.

What to say about THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS that doesn't spoil one of the most haunting, layered stories I've ever read? Admittedly, I don't read a lot of extensive horror, so I don't have a lot to compare this to as far as scares go. But I don't know how this story couldn't scare you.

This is a story about what it means to be a woman. It points a bloodied finger at the harrowing statistics of Native women and the crimes perpetrated against them that the state and national government don’t so much as sniff at. It's a story about life on a rural reservation and what it means to to stay and what it means to go. It's a story about ambition. It's a story about love. Does love always make you better? Does it ever make you desperate? It's a story about honor, about nature, about motherhood.

Four Blackfeet men, Ricky, Lewis, Cassidy and Gabe, commit an act of natural violence on their home reservation. Ricky died only a year or two after. But the first line of the novel is: "The headline for Richard Boss Ribs would be INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR. That's one way to say it."
Ricky's potential headline first hints at the racist treatment of Native Americans (the terms Indian vs All the Rest of the More Woke Terms I'm using here is even debated.) But it also hints at something else.... the entity that crept over Ricky as he struggled to run.

Now it's ten years later, only three of the men are still alive. Cassidy and Gabe remain on the reservation, suffering the typical indignities of a man left to his own devices on the rez. Lewis "made it out," living a few cities away with his White Woman wife, Peta. Nothing is as it seems.

I just can't say anything else, it'll ruin it. The plotting is slow and steady, the pacing cut down to the bone. There's no excess. The characters are fully fleshed. Jones deposits information so when its time comes, you know what to be afraid of. This will be a movie or a HBO series for sure. I hope it is...

There's some gore. But the scariest parts of this novel are more subtle. You know when you're watching a scary movie, and the scary thing hasn't happened yet? You're averting your eyes because you know any moment something is going to pop up. Maybe the director gives you a glimpse of the specter and you think Oh Shit, do not go down there, do not, oh my god, stop.

Yeah. That's THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS for 300 pages. It's incredible.
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Reading Progress

March 9, 2020 – Shelved
March 9, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
October 10, 2020 – Finished Reading

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