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The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

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ARC was provided by Stephen Graham Jones in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (July 14th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of drug and alcohol abuse, graphic deaths of animals, graphic injuries, murder, loss of a loved one, grief

“For them, ten years ago, that’s another lifetime.
For you it’s yesterday.”

My heart, my whole damn heart is filled with so much appreciation for this book. Growing up with a mother who is horror obsessed, it’s been a while since I read a book that chilled my core. I wish my schedule hadn’t been so busy outside of reading this book because I have no doubt that I would have power read this book in two-three days. Also, this is an ownvoices horror novel for the Native American representation. I can’t even begin to express how much this means to me as an Indigenous reader and reviewer. To have an arc of this book, I’m forever grateful and this is something I’ll cherish with my whole soul.

Our story begins with the prologue as it sets the tone for the rest of the novel. We follow Ricky, the first of the four Blackfeet men to encounter the Elk Woman, an entity born from a violent incident on scared ground. Once the news of Ricky reaches his friends, only Lewis begins to wonder if there’s more to what happened than another Native man dying in a bar fight. But soon, they’ll all see how powerful suffering and vengeance really can be.

🦌 Ricky – After leaving the reservation, works for a contracting company, the first to encounter the Elk Woman and die.

🦌 Lewis – Left the reservation to marry his wife, Peta, still works for the postal office, liked to read books, thinks often of “that day“.

🦌 Gabe – Gabe Cross Guns still lives on the reservations and looks after his father, the fighter/troublemaker of the group, uses jokes redirect conversations and hard topics, and father to Denorah.

🦌 Cass – Cassidy Sees Elk still lives on the reservation with Gabe, living with his girlfriend, the serious one of the four friends

🦌 Denorah – Gabe’s daughter, the reservation basketball star, the underdog of this story.

“It was so easy. He was so fragile, so delicately balanced, so unprepared to face what he’d done.”

The author has an incredible way of writing. The way this book is written in a way that leaves you wondering if the Elk Woman who’s inflicting the wrath upon these men is their guilty imagination or something more real. There’s also a constant theme of grief laced through the entire novel. You have these passages where we see things from, not only the four men, but also the Elk Woman and there’s such a heaviness of loss. Stephen did an incredible job weaving such a powerful emotion throughout this book and really shows how grief can manifest in so many different ways for people.

“We’re from where we’re from. Scars are a part of the deal, aren’t they?”

I also have to take a moment to say that this book addresses so much when it comes to Blackfeet culture and beliefs, talks a little bit about elk ivory, gives you glimpses of what reservation life is like, how if you’re of color you’re treated differently and have to work twice as hard, and so many other important topics that aren’t often talked about. There were so many moments in this book that addressed many of these topics and the truth that’s woven into this book… how could I not get emotional about it?

And the ending of this book what just a shock to the system. I loved it so much! Denorah is such an underdog, but I loved reading things from her perspective. She’s very determined, headstrong, and so courageous. I think many readers will fall in love with her and her actions. I think she’s my favorite character and dare I say she deserves a spin-off book.

Overall, I really liked this book. I want to say so much more about this book, but I think anyone who picks this book up should go in with as little information as possible. I loved how the uncertainty, the horror, and confusion of the characters translated on the page. All the side characters brought so much to the table for the story development, the personal interactions between the main characters, and making this book feel like a horror movie for your brain. If you’re a lover of horror, looking for books by Native American authors to diversify your reading, or if you enjoy supernatural/paranormal novels then recommend picking this novel up!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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