After sitting out last summer, I’m once again participating in Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer, hosted on her blog 746 Books. As you might have seen in an earlier post, for this year I’ve selected an odd ball assortment of library books, older stuff, history, fiction and even a play.
Among the several novels I chose are Tommy Orange’s There There and Mitchell S. Jackson’s The Residue Years, both past selections of Multnomah County Library’s annual Everybody’s Reads program. After letting my copies sit ignored for the last couple of years I figured now was a good time to include them in my 20 Books of Summer.
On the eve of the recent three day weekend I cracked open There There and give it a shot, hoping my favorite public library once again selected a goodie for Everybody Reads. After reading a mere few pages I was hooked. With the year roughly half over, I’m predicting right now this novel will make my year-end list of Favorite Fiction.
Published in 2018, Orange’s debut novel was proclaimed one of the best books of the year by publications far and wide, won a ton of awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Shifting back and forth between first and third person it tells the story of 12 Oakland, California area Native Americans and their interconnected lives leading up to an outdoor pow wow at the city’s sports stadium. Early in the novel you learn someone is being pressured to commit an armed robbery at the large festival. But like a runaway train careening towards disaster you know it’s all going to end tragically, you just don’t know how horrific it will all look when it’s all over.
There There has everything you would want in a killer debut novel. The writing is taut and vivid and features an ensemble cast of Native American characters which might have the appearance of racial homogeneity but based on age, temperament and life experience is strikingly diverse. The novel also touches on a host of relevant issues like gentrification, substance abuse, mental health, poverty and as expected racial identity.
Please consider There There highly recommended.