The REZ, An American Love Story assumed published by copyright and written by G. Michael Madison.
The story opens with a group of children listening to the Storyteller, an important member of any American Indian Culture. It then proceeds to describe the reservation. It comprises a section of land lying on Totem Beach, an area of Puget Sound from which they catch large quantities of fish to supplement their mostly inadequate government income. Then we meet inhabitants Franc Esque, French/American Indian, Lois, his Nordic, non-Indian wife, and their seven daughters and 3 boys with particularly prominent characters ten-year-old Jonny and slightly older brother Caj. Jonny is slight of build, has an only partly described speech impediment and seems to be somewhat mentally deficient, although, as the story progresses, it appears that any impairment of importance may be more apparent than real. Contrarily, Caj is outgoing, liked my all and with a desire to ‘see and do it all’. He develops into an excellent athlete. The other most prominent characters are Ginny Thomas, her husband Nick and daughter Nikki-D. Ginny is the daughter of Chinese aristocrats who were forced out by the Communistic regime and were able to survive by opening a restaurant in which her martinet mother demanded she work as any other employee. Now married to her former American Air Force Pilot husband she had met in Hawaii, she was quite autocratic always insisting that her daughter only associate with the other families of wealth who lived on the Bluffs overlooking Totem Beach. She was extremely displeased with their having to move to this new area across the country when Nick had received the offer of President of the local bank. Unfortunately, Nick did not have the business acumen exhibited by his older brother, and accepting this offer was somewhat of a move in desperation. Nikki-D was as disgruntled as was her mother but also persisted in maintaining a confrontational relationship with her mother while espousing all of the social and cultural upheaval of the sixties.
As time progresses the story line develops with some expected, but also some somewhat surprising directions. Franc who we discover is suffering from PTSD from wartime service, gradually increases his indulgence in alcohol. Nick, manages to perform adequately although he, too, begins to increase his consumption of alcohol. Nikki-D and Jonny, as two very lonely 10-year-old children meet and develop a most unique and interpersonal bond. Lois and Ginny develop an unusual and remarkable friendship. Lois finally reacts to the years of tension, is hospitalized and the older children, including Caj and Jonny are removed and distributed to different reservation schools. Caj becomes an accomplished athlete, but upon graduating, enlists and serves in Vietnam, also succumbing to PTSD. Jonny begins to exhibit latent administrative abilities. Nikki-D becomes involved with all of the latest social/cultural movements until struck with a devastating emotional blow that brings her home, and the years continue following these unusual people in their poignant journey until its final pages where a position of budding hope appears for a better future.
Discussion: This, in many ways, is a strange tale. It contains thoughtfully written material with respect to the long existent disgraceful situation of the American Indian and the discrimination and racism they have encountered. It includes remarks pertinent to other ethnic racism but develops this no further. He describes the rebellious nature of the youth of the sixties, the reaction to the senseless Vietnam War, the horrors witnessed and participated in by those involved and the everlasting memories invoked. It provides interesting women of strong character being able to survive and even aid their men who appear to be lacking in one or another aspect. In all, a book that once begun requires reading to the end. It is understood that the author is a Native American Indian, Vietnam Veteran and prominent in the thrust to amend for the long-standing disgraceful treatment of the Indian nations. For this reason, this reader is regretful and most apologetic to say he found little closure, no clear message, and regrettably no one character with whom to empathize. Thus, a conclusion, perhaps for him alone, that this is a thoughtfully but somewhat unevenly written book only vaguely resembling the stated “American Love Story”. In fact for this reviewer, assignment of any specific genre is difficult.
3* Thoughtful, interesting, but difficult to define look at an era and some of the people involved.