“The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones
Reviewed by Bob Helmbrecht and Yvonne Selander, collection development librarians
Four friends went elk hunting on the last day of the season a decade ago. They knew they weren’t supposed to hunt on the land reserved for the elders; but it was the last day of the season and the elk were RIGHT THERE. A storm sets in, an out-of-season pregnant doe refuses to be brought down without a massive fight, and the four Blackfeet are caught and banned from hunting elk on tribal land ever again. Life goes on for the four, two move away and two stay, but what they started that night is far from over.
Just because you don’t believe in something doesn’t mean it doesn’t believe in you. That’s the nugget I’m taking away from this frightening tale. That and a mother’s love is eternal and Blackfeet spirits are vengeful and scary! This is definitely a horrific tale but it is also a discussion about culture and belief; how you can’t escape your roots. The writing is superb, and the dread and fear is ratcheted up as the story progresses.
Like basketball? I normally don’t. But the most intense game of 21, actually the most intense high stakes game ever, is described in this book. I guarantee it will keep you on the edge of your seat turning the pages hearing the bounce, bounce, swish of the ball as it makes a basket and your teeth will grind in anticipation of the next move.
Author Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author, so his treatment of the folklore and current Blackfeet culture has the ring of authenticity. The horror is intimately entwined with the life experience of the characters, not just a generic “ancient Indian spirits have been angered” story. Even if you don’t normally read horror, this novel can be read as a fascinating tale of drama and character development.
You can find all of our copies of books by Stephen Graham Jones in the Library’s catalog.