I’ll admit, when it comes to literature, I have pretty high standards. I am trying to read more multi-culturally oriented works by writers who are more than just white, and that includes writers who have indigenous (Native American) ties. My favorites are Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie, but I am trying to develop a diverse palate. The Chancellor listens to NPR on his afternoon commute home, and they raved about David Treuer’s Prudence. The description intrigued me, so I put in a library request.
The novel encompasses a multitude of viewpoints surrounding a violent accident in 1942, both leading up to it, and the aftermath. Frankie Washburn is our white protagonist, with doting mother Emma and distant and disappointed father Jonathan. Felix is the Indian who works on the family’s resort, and Billy is just younger than Frankie and has been a childhood friend. The titular Prudence appears during this violent accident, and it tenuously upon her that the story hinges (although, eh. Not really). Then war happens and other things happen and the story kind of ends where it began: with a different violent end.
I wish you could have seen the many distasteful faces I made as I read this book. To put it kindly: it was not good. I wrote in my Goodreads blurb that it was a poor adaptation of Atonement-meets-Brokeback-Mountain. Just very poorly plotted. The story itself is interesting, but it seems to lack direction and focus. And OMG, SHOW DON’T TELL. Early on, there is all this description about a character’s lack of manliness and his thin wrists and all this description and foreshadowing that makes the “surprise” so.not.a.surprise. Look, I love gay cowboy love as much as any straight girl who wants to be a hag, but c’mon. Make your reader work for it a little. You don’t need to telegraph Big Reveals before they need to be revealed.
I haven’t even unloaded my vitriol on the way Prudence is portrayed. Basically, in every.other.scene, she is straddling some guy with no rhyme or reason and she is drunk. We get no real sense of character motivation, so her constant sexualization is just plain disgusting. Particularly by the way the men seem to be helpless or passive in her web of magical vagina. I leave with only this thought to Treuer:
Women deserve better. Prudence deserves better.