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Review: Night of the Living Rez

Updated: May 19

3/5 stars

TW: Drug & alcohol abuse

These 12 interconnected stories follow a modern-day Native family living on the Penobscot Indian Nation Reservation in Maine. A young man named David is the main protagonist, and we see him at different times in his life, from 12 years old into his 20's. He lives on the rez with his mother, her alcoholic medicine-man boyfriend, and, occasionally, his older sister. Everyone smokes a lot of cigarettes and drinks a lot of alcohol, and most of them do too many drugs as well. David, his sister, and his best friend Fellis travel frequently to the nearby town (off the rez) for methadone treatments, but also hit up the local drug dealer when they have money to do so. It's a troubled family with troubled friends, who all get into trouble together.

I think it painted a poignant image of what it means to live in poverty, in particular on a reservation. It is bleak, but also manages to present loving, lovable, tenacious characters who are survivors.

That said, there aren't any big events that stick out, now that I'm done reading it. The characters were realistic but nothing really happens. It felt more like snapshots of a person's relatively regular life than it did a work of fiction where you'd expect plot, and some version of conflict and resolution. But I think that's the point - and for what it is, it's very good. The downside is it's a little bit forgettable.


UP NEXT: The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon

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