Mining the layers of family secrets that have built up over three generations on a reservation town called Poverty, members of the tiny community tell their own stories, leading finally to the heart of the mystery that surrounds an eight-year-old boy named Little.
At once bleak and lushly lyrical, this ambitious first novel by an Ojibwe writer probes the lives of the residents of a Minnesota reservation they call, with weary sardonicism, Poverty. A priest has died, drowned, it seems, in the baptismal font, but the truth turns out to be darker and more vengeful, an emblem of the unhappy collision of white and Indian cultures. Yet the resolution of this mystery is subordinate to the unfolding of lyrical and elegiac set pieces that illuminate the lives of Duke and Ellis, twins whose coming of age is comprised of acts of great compassion and of matter-of-fact brutality; of Jeanette, sliding into embittered middle age; and of Little, the doomed child whose one word of speech-``You''-can both embrace and accuse. Treuer, who himself lives on a reservation in Minnesota, moves awkwardly from one character to another; his greater gift is a poetic clarity of observation, in which even the bloody death of a deer can be a thing of austere beauty. Author tour. (Oct.)