Book Review | Mean Spirit By Linda Hogan


1.jpgMean Spirit was short-listed for the Pulitzer in 1991. It was up against some tough competition but I’ll get to that tomorrow when I write a winner vs short list post. Rating a

Rating this book is a complicated thing and how a person rates it would be heavily impacted by the criteria they’re using. I mean, I realize that’s a super general thing to say that’s applicable to any review but when reflecting on this book it really hit home. Am I rating whether or not it was an enjoyable read? Because it wasn’t. It was depressing as hell. But so was The Grapes of Wrath and I have a freaking tattoo from that book. Am I rating whether or not the writing is good? Because it is but it’s also hard. Not the word usage but the fact that for the first seventy-five or so pages there are so many god damn characters that I had to give up trying to keep them straight in the grander scheme and just concentrate on what the character in front of me was doing on the specific page I was reading. Once the background was set up and the author focused on the key characters it was much smoother sailing and inevitably worth it.

This book tells the story of Native Americans (the author uses the term Indians) living in Oklahoma in the 1920s. This particular tribe was deeded land by the U.S. that ended up being oil rich as all hell. Some folks fond themselves mighty wealthy and then a bunch of murdering started up. There’s also a lot of horse training going on.

The story was depressing because, though this particular tale may be fictionalized, it was – and still is – a reality for way too many indigenous people. I was also sort of uncomfortable with this book being deemed magical realism. I get why but the only real “magic” stuff going on was actual native ceremonies and I think it’s beyond rude to refer to them as “magic”. Well, and that guy that died but then was sort-of alive and more human than ghost – enough to marry someone, I guess. So there’s that. OK, I guess I’m comfortable with the term. Forgive me, fearless readers.

Overall I’m glad I read this. I immediately recommended it to Sam and he’s reading it now. He follows the spiritual principles and ceremonies of the Lakota Sioux so I’m interested to hear his take on some of the messier stuff in this book.

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