House Made of Dawn is considered to be N. Scott Momaday’s best work (and it was granted a Pulitzer), so I thought that after my interesting experience with The Ancient Child, it might be best to go to his most acclaimed work.
This is a hard novel to recap, because it relies so heavily on images and ideas than on narrative, plot, and character. But I’ll do the best I can: the story loosely revolves around an elderly Kiowa man, Francisco, and his grandson, Abel. The story is split into two time periods: first, 1945, and then 1952. Francisco is drawn to his heritage and his lands, and he still uses horses as main transportation. Abel is drawn to the old way of life, particularly since he has been raised by Francisco, but his participation in a war, plus the changing landscape around him threatens to tear his identity in two. He slides into despair and alcoholism, as he attempts to reconcile the pieces of his life.
Like I said, this novel is reliant upon images rather than on narrative. You’d think that it would be a difficult book to read, and in many circumstances, it is. You have to read carefully, or you might miss the fact that Abel fought in WWII (I think? or perhaps Korea? That part was not super clear to me), or that Francisco is the defiant man described in writings that the local priest, Father Olguin, has found. But Abel’s plight becomes that much more sympathetic, because you can clearly picture the depths to which his soul is torn. It’s a compelling novel, though not an easy read. I do recommend it, though I’ll say that Sherman Alexie’s style is more my speed.