Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
More of these stories are needed and Weiden has a new fan for life. Already written in my go-to genre, I was intrigued early on with his in-depth, no holds barred, inside look at life on a reservation. Having grown up around and frequently visiting a reservation of one of the tribes mentioned in this book, I have seen firsthand a lot of what he is writing about, but I’m still shocked from descriptions regarding laws, justice, and politics. Thankfully, he includes more reading at the end of the book, and upon finishing, I was looking up those titles at the library.
Stories revolving around drugs and alcohol always hit in a personal way, resonating with my own personal experiences with friends and family. This is a story I have lived and watched play out multiple times, and Virgil’s vigilantism is the kind of action I could only fantasize about playing out. Despite the murky legalities of a man for hire, the scenes play out with a clear moral code, but with enough brutality that leaves you feeling uncomfortable, thus humanizing the experience.
It is fun reading the spot-on descriptions of Denver, the only other state I’ve lived aside from my home in Washington State. I have traveled the same streets mentioned in the book, the infamous Colfax, I worked at a Starbucks on Federal, I lived so close to the dog food factory that I could smell it in my living room depending which way the wind blew, and of course, Casa Bonita and their memorable sopapillas.
Further enriching this novel are the everyday Lakota words and phrases peppered throughout the entire story. Many are explained, but some I still googled to get a better understanding and context. Ceremonies and customs still performed to this day are described with a reverence lending to the sacredness of these practices. The commitment and loyalty to the tribe is stirring and beautiful.
Everything about this novel is exquisite and well executed and I’m anxious to see more from Mr. Weiden.
Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced copy. The opinions are my own.
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