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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > There There

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Let's talk about it...


message 2: by Michael (last edited Dec 22, 2018 02:43AM) (new)

Michael (grebmar) *spoilers*

I must admit to being a bit underwhelmed by this one. It's kind of what I expected going in - urban indians fighting poverty and addiction, and living with the loss of their heritage and struggling to both maintain and make a new identity. I also didn't understand exactly what happened in the end. I understand that Tony backed out and Octavia did the robbery, but I wasn't sure why shots were fired or why so *many* shots were fired. What was the motivation to have a big shoot-out? (Leaving aside the idea, never mentioned in the book, that credit/gift cards can be cancelled if they are lost or stolen, so stealing them is incredibly stupid in the first place.)

The bigger question for me would be what happens after this incident? How does the community react to a massive shooting at the powwow? How do Harvey and all his kids react to being united? There were just a lot of loose threads that didn't get resolved for me.


message 3: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 11 comments I didn’t read it as much as a story but more as a tale on how the lives of urban indians falls apart. I thought the writing was excellent, but there was an overal sadness to it that showed all the despair. Still, one of the best I’ve read


message 4: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 452 comments I thought there was a power to the writing in this book that elevated it to one of the best I've read this year. I've got this down as the one most likely to win.


message 5: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Alison wrote: "I thought there was a power to the writing in this book that elevated it to one of the best I've read this year. I've got this down as the one most likely to win."

I agree Alison. There is a definite feeling of power that resonates from this book. I still feel that Orange has used the entire novel as a metaphor for the plight of the American Indians.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 27, 2018 04:07PM) (new)

Michael wrote: "I must admit to being a bit underwhelmed by this one. It's kind of what I expected going in - urban indians fighting poverty and addiction, and living with the loss of their heritage an..."

I was underwhelmed by it too, probably because I had too high expectations. I can agree with those who have called this book "important." However, I grew fatigued with one sad story after another. Orange made it seem that for modern urban natives there is no lightness, no happiness, just dysfunction and endless suffering.


message 7: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments I'm not completely finished with There There, and I can see why some would find the endless sad stories to be a bit overwhelming. For me, it is very disheartening to read/know that this is what life has been like for so many, but it's also not hard to believe it is pretty representative of what many outcomes have been. There is an underbelly to our culture that many haven't experienced, and many more prefer not to see up close and personal. I am finding it to be an interesting read, even if a bit troubling.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 27, 2018 10:51PM) (new)

Carmel wrote: "...but it's also not hard to believe it is pretty representative of what many outcomes have been. There is an underbelly to our culture that many haven't experienced, and many more prefer not to see up close and personal.

I think Orange's novel is important because it gives an unvarnished view of the pain and struggles that many (most?) native people experience. I only wish he had given his characters a few moments of happiness mixed in with the pain.


message 9: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 452 comments Tina wrote: "Orange made it seem that for modern urban natives there is no lightness, no happiness, just dysfunction and endless suffering. ..."

I think we may have read different books. The love between the boys and their great-aunt was so real and tender.


message 10: by Nadine - California (last edited Dec 28, 2018 08:15AM) (new)

Nadine - California (nadinekc) | 550 comments Carmel wrote: "I'm not completely finished with There There, and I can see why some would find the endless sad stories to be a bit overwhelming. For me, it is very disheartening to read/know that this is what lif..."

I read it a few months ago, but my lasting impression isn't that the book or the characters and their situations are so very bleak. They have tough lives and been through a lot, but the overall tone I get from Tommy Orange isn't one of despair or hopelessness.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Alison wrote: "I think we may have read different books."

That's not an uncommon experience for me. : )
I do agree with you that the writing is powerful, and I expect this novel to go far in the tournament.


message 12: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Michael wrote: "*spoilers*

I must admit to being a bit underwhelmed by this one. It's kind of what I expected going in - urban indians fighting poverty and addiction, and living with the loss of their heritage an..."


I loved this book too until this ending you reference as well! I also thought it kind of fell apart in that scene.


message 13: by Tristan (new)

Tristan | 104 comments I didn't get a sense of despair out of the book at all. I felt it was more about identity in a quickly changing world that seems to have little/no respect to native american traditions. If those traditions go away then how will members of the various tribes retain their identities.


message 14: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1060 comments Responding to Michael, Karin wrote: "I loved this book too until this ending you reference as well! I also thought it kind of fell apart in that scene."

I found that scene extremely powerful in the way it echoed the earlier descriptions of Native Americans being massacred by US soldiers. That overlay of the earlier massacres left me sobbing.


message 15: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 448 comments Jan wrote: " Responding to Michael, Karin wrote: "I loved this book too until this ending you reference as well! I also thought it kind of fell apart in that scene."

I found that scene extremely powerful in t..."


The ending definitely felt chaotic and falling apart, but it hit me in a powerful way. That in the end these characters with these interesting lives and relationships are still so impacted by violence.


message 16: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments Overall, I enjoyed this novel and agree that it’s “important.” However, I had trouble telling the characters apart. Their voices didn’t come across as very distinct or specific, and when the story is told from alternating perspectives, I think it’s critical that the different voices become distinct and knowable. Otherwise, it just feels like a chorus. I think this could have been even more powerful if told from just one perspective (but still including all the other characters).


message 17: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gwendolyn that I had difficulty keeping things straight, due to the format of the story. But otherwise enjoyed the read. Lots of important stuff in this book. I just posted a review, for any interested.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

I'll add to my thoughts here, since I won't be spoiling anything at this point.

I loved the writing. I loved the voice of the author and how he described things--thoughts and feelings and all the angst. There were a few places where I just had to sit and reread, because what was conveyed was so profound and well-stated.

The characters felt very real to me, as did their histories and stories. What struck me most about the young people was how many were being raised by grandmothers/great-aunts--fathers, grandfathers, even older brothers absent for one reason or another. That is such a cultural loss, few older males showing the younger males how to be men, grounding them in their histories and traditions. Nuclear family seemed to be represented differently in this book, with children going to live with extended relatives, or friends of family, as though one belongs to all, not just birth parents.

The whole focus on telling stories that was threaded throughout was interesting, from Dene recording histories, to boys asking adults questions in order to know their pasts, to the pow wow, which is held to allow the ancient stories and connections to be preserved. One statement that struck me was when Dene thinks "Sometimes not having a story is the story." What a powerful statement on how vacuous a life can seem when one is adrift, not feeling connected in important ways. When one loses the stories, over time, does one lose all sense of connection and identity?

As the title suggests, and the Stein quote highlights, through the loss of story the there that was there disappears.

The final scene was indeed chaotic, and seemed even more so because I had been having difficulty keeping track of all the names and relationships, as they evolved. But once I skimmed again, it all fell into place. What was ironic to me was that this took place at a ceremony designed to connect, to preserve, to honor, where connections were about to be renewed or newly formed--and it was torn apart, just as Native American life has been by others, by history. Here was a place for "telling the story" and the story got stifled, once again. I thought it was quite powerful. And quite tragic. And quite real in today's world.

Saddest of all was my thought that this ending would have felt so different 20 years ago, before this kind of thing became so commonplace that we all can nod our heads and believe it.


message 18: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1060 comments Great stuff, Carmel. Thank you!!


message 19: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments Thanks, Jan!


message 20: by David (new)

David Steege | 2 comments I listened to the audiobook and found it very difficult to keep track of all the characters, especially so I could understand their relationships and what happened in the final scene. I ended up reading my physical copy of the book and found it much easier (though still not easy) to follow this second time around. In short, I recommend reading this in print!

I do think it's worth the effort--it's both about very specific, well-differentiated urban Native American characters and about the situation of contemporary Native Americans in a more general sense. And (slight spoiler) the scenes in the beginning of the occupation of Alcatraz gave me quite a different picture of what it was like than I heard on the news as a child growing up in the Bay Area.

I agree, Carmel's comments are very helpful and increased my appreciation of the novel--thanks!


message 21: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments Carmel wrote: "What was ironic to me was that this took place at a ceremony designed to connect, to preserve, to honor, where connections were about to be renewed or newly formed..."

That's what I found so devastating, that this tragedy occurred in a place that should be sacred. I agree that the writing is very powerful and I choose to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel with a family (hopefully) being reunited.


message 22: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments Rachelnyc wrote: "Carmel wrote: "What was ironic to me was that this took place at a ceremony designed to connect, to preserve, to honor, where connections were about to be renewed or newly formed..."

That's what I..."


Since it was left open, the optimist in me sees reconciliation and connection. Because I can. :)


message 23: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Jan wrote: " Responding to Michael, Karin wrote: "I found that scene extremely powerful in the way it echoed the earlier descriptions of Native Americans being massacred by US soldiers."

Very true!


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) Carmel wrote: "I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gwendolyn that I had difficulty k..."

Jan wrote: " Responding to Michael, Karin wrote: "I loved this book too until this ending you reference as well! I also thought it kind of fell apart in that scene."

I think Carmel does a good job of talking about the tragedy of the final scene, but I don't think it's any more poignant as a shooting simply because it's at a powwow versus being at a school or a concert or a whatever. What bothers me most was how unmotivated the shooting itself was. Why did Octavio start shooting?

And, just from curiosity, how many bullets can a 3D printed gun fire? It seems like dozens of shots were fired, but from what I can tellin a quick google search, 3D printed guns can't hold clips for that many bullets.


message 25: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Michael wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gwendolyn that I h..."

On the subject of 3D printed guns, I wondered that myself Michael. The ones I have seen only have the one round in them.


message 26: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments Michael wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gwendolyn that I h..."

I completely agree with you, Michael, that each and every one of these shootings is equally horrific and tragic. My comment about it being particularly tragic was connected to the story itself, and the events unfolding there.


message 27: by Noa (new)

Noa (nsing) | 18 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Overall, I enjoyed this novel and agree that it’s “important.” However, I had trouble telling the characters apart. Their voices didn’t come across as very distinct or specific, and when the story ..."

Love your review/synopsis......you really nailed how I felt after I finished the book....loved the writing, felt the pain of the characters.....had to flip back to figure out who's who at times, but It's definitely one that I want to re-read and keep on my shelf. Thanks!


message 28: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments Michael wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gwendolyn that I h..."

As to why the shootout occurred, the robbery plan fell apart, and Charles and Carlos turned on Octavio, setting off a shootout between them that injured others. It wasn't clear why they turned on him, other than perhaps greed, wanting to take all the gift cards. I think they were all just very poor shots so others were injured in the process.


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) Carmel wrote: "Michael wrote: "Carmel wrote: "I finished the read two days ago, but wanted to take the time to reread/skim it again, to be more sure of all that took place and who each person was. I agree with Gw..."

I kind of gathered that, but we don't know details. I think Tony was supposed to do the robbery but didn't and we weren't told why. So Octavia did it, but then Charlos didn't like that so Octavia started to shoot - and we aren't in any characters heads to know real motivations on why this happened. That's what's frustrating.


message 30: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 843 comments Definitely some great points here. I also was confused about the amount of shots fired - in the bathroom scene with the bullets I think they each took about five or so (?), but the ending scene sounded like it was dozens of shots. And I also thought about the gift cards - they would easily be canceled or traceable to where the people who ended up with them (if they got away from the massacre without getting caught somehow) wouldn't actually get to use them (or likely would go to prison anyway). It's possible that they didn't think of that though, which of course makes the whole thing even more tragic.

I listened to the audio version, where it was hard to keep track of who was who (although the names were distinct/memorable enough). I'd like to reread the print version later.

One issue this book really reminded me of is the complexity of interracial marriage/relationships. Of course I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to marry and have kids with people that don't look like them, but I also feel like a lot is lost with this. In everything thing I've learned in my anti-racist work (I'm a white woman in the U.S., so I need to work on this stuff) I've developed a lot of conflicted feelings about how this turns out. When it comes to black (or even more so, native) communities in this country, the more mixing with white people that happens the more their identity and culture is faded out. I know a few people who are a quarter native american but don't end up partnering with others of native backgrounds, so that identity will keep getting smaller and smaller. It's clearly a gift to white people to be able to procreate with these beautiful and more rare races, but at what cost to those groups?

On the other hand, when mixed race people can "pass" as white, they're more likely to get better jobs, avoid prison and being shot by police, etc. so there are those "benefits" I guess. The whole thing is just sad. When will white Americans stop destroying other people? :(


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments hi TOB-ers. Since so many of you are Goodreads librarians, I was wondering if one of you could fix the entry for this book. It doesn't show up in the auto-populating "Search books" and if you do search for "There There" the result is 0 books. It must be filed under a fingerflub? I keep having to capture the bookID on any references.

also - let me know if it's bad form to post a librarian request outside the Group. I got a little overwhelmed when I looked at the list of topics to decide where to post. :p


message 32: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I am not a GR librarian but I was frustrated by this as well and discovered that if you type "There There Tommy" it auto-populates. Hope this helps until the issue is resolved.


message 33: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 843 comments Yep, I did something similar! When I tried "There There, Tommy Orange" it worked.


message 34: by Mindy (new)

Mindy Jones (mindyrecycles) | 59 comments I think a librarian can’t fix this but rather it’s a glitch. Someone reported it in the GR Feedback group.


message 35: by Mina (new)

Mina (minaphillips) | 43 comments I'm only four books in but this one was powerful. There was a story there that I needed to read. There was chaos and sadness in the ending but then wasn't there all the way through the book as well? Once again I am thankful for The Rooster/This group for broadening my reading horizons and making the gray matter ponder bigger things.


message 36: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments Lauren, I wanted to respond to your comments about mixed marriages with another perspective. I’m also a white woman born and raised in the U.S. I’m so fortunate to have an Asian husband who is ethnically Vietnamese and born in Vietnam (though raised in the U.S.). We have two children who are mixed. It’s been such a positive experience for all of us, including our extended families. There is definitely not anything lost here. If anything, my husband’s Vietnamese background and culture has been amplified and propagated throughout my entire extended family, and my background has been amplified in his family. What I’m trying to say is that the sum is greater than the parts, and the mixing has broadened all of our perspectives.

Our children are very proud of both halves of their heritage, though, to be honest, they find the Vietnamese half to be more interesting/unique. My half is the “boring half” they say, which is to say it’s the majority and just not that interesting to them. I think that as a society we are getting better at embracing unique family groupings in a way that focuses on amplification rather than erasure. I think novels like There There can help to remind us why this is so important.

Anyway, a bit of a digression, but I wanted to post an alternative perspective on this issue.


message 37: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 416 comments Jan wrote: " I found that scene extremely powerful in the way it echoed the earlier descriptions of Native Americans being massacred by US soldiers. That overlay of the earlier massacres left me sobbing."

Exactly! At first I was disappointed in the ending but then I realized that point. Powerful stuff.


message 38: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 843 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Lauren, I wanted to respond to your comments about mixed marriages with another perspective. I’m also a white woman born and raised in the U.S. I’m so fortunate to have an Asian husband who is ethn..."

I appreciate your response, and I definitely was not questioning the beauty of mixed relationships. I agree that there is a lot gained, and was mainly thinking of the cultures that are disappearing with the mixing (esp. indigenous groups).

It's a discussion that has come up a lot in my Undoing Racism groups, and I realize that it's not really fair to bring it up here without the background context that usually accompanies those conversations.

Thank you for sharing about your family; it's wonderful that Vietnamese culture is being celebrated and extended through your relationship. :)


message 39: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1060 comments Drew wrote: "...Exactly! At first I was disappointed in the ending but then I realized that point. Powerful stuff. ..."

Amen, Drew! I just finished rereading this book with my IRL book group and was impressed all over again with the power of the ending when we view it through lens of the historical massacres. I thought Tommy Orange's writing in those last few sections was especially strong.


message 40: by Dan (new)

Dan | 1 comments Tommy Orange debut novel. I read it and loved it. The beauty of the whole thing (after reading some other thoughts on the book) with the complex nature of multiple characters swerving around is the resolution. Where does the whole thing come together and what was the purpose of ALL the different characters? Only to find yourself at the end finding a massive collision of characters intersecting at the precise exact moment of the event at the Oakland Powwow. Amazing. Sad...yes, but honest.

I see that they have "There There" with the possibility of facing off against "The Mars Room" if they both go on to Round 2. I loved "The Mars Room", and still don't see how "There There" doesn't become the dark horse in this tournament and simply take the whole thing.


message 41: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1656 comments I ended up really liking portions of this book and disliking or skimming others. Some of the characters were so excellent but I kept getting thrown out of the story. The first time was the huge time jump from the kids of yesteryear (Opal/Jackie) to their grandkids - I still don't understand its purpose and the tale wasn't cohesive enough in between to make it a family saga.

Someone in this thread mentioned feeling condescended to by the author's explaining so much at times i.e. pow-wows. When I hit the Interlude and the author explained to me (at length) what a mass shooting entails, I felt the same & disconnected again. It seemed overlong and unnecessary.

But the big one: I cringed so hard when Harvey stops Jackie by holding the elevator, forcing her - the person who gave up the daughter that resulted from their not-entirely consensual sex - to hear him out. The author seemed to be turning this into Harvey's opportunity for redemption and here he is seeing nothing amiss in blocking her exit (again? ).


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