Quiet Until the Thaw: A Novel (Hardcover)
Alexandra Fuller has painted a large target, in the shape of a medicine wheel, over her fearless heart with Quiet Until the Thaw, her first novel after a 15-year binge of stark, intimate memoirs and biographies. How dare this immigrant white woman, transplanted to Wyoming from England by way of southern Africa, inhabit the minds and characters with honesty, insight and compassion, with ears attuned to a perfect pitch for discordant injustice and dissonant irony -- sharpened by the violent, racist brutality of a childhood in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)? How dare she ignite the spark of life in imagined, divergent, reservation orphans, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson, as well as their "Closest Immediate Relations" of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, allowing them to breathe as if under their own agency?
The anti-appropriation army will be after her like the Seventh Cavalry at Wounded Knee, armed with self-righteous hysteria. The absurdity of shackling Fiction with identity politics has been summed up by another iconoclastic, white female novelist, Lionel Shriver, "This is a disespectful vocation by its nature -- prying, voyeuristic, kleptomanical, and presumptuous. And that is fiction at its best." What is relevant to fiction is mis-appropriation: the dishonest or faithless representation, symptomatic of bad writing. Nothing could be more irrelevant to Alexandra Fuller's story-telling ability.
As a novice novelist, Fuller has seemingly chosen to channel Kurt Vonnegut -- a debt pre-acknowledged by one of her book's epigrams. His characteristic blunt observations, steeped in irony, are natural to Fuller's narration. "On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation you don't have to make trouble for yourself. Trouble saved you the effort and came looking for you." The 1970s Wounded Knee conflict is like the Dresden of Slaughter-House Five transposed to the Rez. I imagined Vonnegut's signature sign-off, "and so it goes," on the frozen wind. His template of compressed chapters pervades. But thematically, Vonnegut was never as earthbound as, "the Rez, also known as Prisoner of War Camp #334, also known as the Oglala Lakota Native American Reserve," requires.— From Jose's Picks
The debut novel from the bestselling author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Leaving Before the Rains Come.
“Awe inspiring . . . An ardent, original, and beautifully wrought book.” —The New York Times Book Review
Lakota Oglala Sioux Nation, South Dakota.
Two Native American cousins, Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson, are pitted against each other as their tribe is torn apart by infighting. Rick chooses the path of peace and stays; You Choose, violent and unpredictable, strikes out on his own. When he returns, after three decades behind bars, he disrupts the fragile peace and threatens the lives of the entire reservation.
A complex tale that spans generations and geography, Quiet Until the Thaw conjures, with the implications of an oppressed history, how we are bound not just to immediate family but to all who have come before and will come after us, and, most of all, to the notion that everything was always, and is always, connected.
About the Author
Alexandra Fuller was born in England in 1969. In 1972, she moved with her family to a farm in southern Africa. She lived in Africa until her midtwenties. In 1994, she moved to Wyoming.
“A delicately calibrated tuning fork, resonating at a cosmic pitch…awe-inspiring…This is an ardent, original and beautifully wrought book.” - The New York Times Book Review
“Fuller achieves what every creative writer with political and social concerns hopes to achieve, where the political issues of her text do not overwhelm her story with a heavy hand, and yet they are simultaneously a part of the visible and invisible forces at work on the characters’ journeys. And what journeys they undertake… In telling a story whose form embraces the Lakota Sioux’s philosophies and distinctive life cycles, Quiet Until the Thaw doesn’t just give us an authentic tale of a Native American people’s journey. It offers up a distinctive view of America, and perhaps even pleas for a new understanding of how great American novels can be written.” - Paste Magazine
“Alexandra Fuller’s first novel, “Quiet Until the Thaw,” is a fearless book. . . with trenchant wit and appropriate rage, Fuller dodges cliché. “Quiet Until the Thaw” is not so much a conventional narrative as a progression of vignettes, less a tale to be read than a chronicle to be heard. The voice of the storyteller, Fuller’s voice — by turns acerbic, compassionate and wry — imprints us almost more than the story she tells. And her gaze, though narrowly focused on a handful of Oglala Sioux characters, illuminates much more than their lives. Beyond spanning relatively large swaths of time, the book covers many physical territories as well — from the Rez in South Dakota to Vietnam, from Paris Disneyland to the moon. And in these snippets of cultural conquest, it is as much a history of (white) American capitalism in the 20th century as of a people oppressed by it…An essential book.”— WBUR’s The ARTery
“Alexandra Fuller has always been a brave writer. We count on her bare-boned, carefully-crafted truths laced with wit and wisdom. But in her debut novel, Fuller calls upon her imagination to explore what binds us together rather than what pulls us apart. Quiet Until the Thaw is a literary risk and a revelation.” —Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Hour of Land
“One moment I am crying in sorrow, the next laughing and on the same page I am cringing. Honest fiction that exposes the reality of the difficulties of the Lakota Way.”
—Richard B. Williams, former president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, and member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe
“Fuller’s keen sense of engagement with a land ‘to which you now don’t belong,’ and her place as an outsider, make her a sympathetic storyteller. Her prose shimmers and vibrates with life in this excellent novel.” – Publishers Weekly
“Beloved for the string of gorgeous memoirs begun with Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Fuller here depicts the Lakota people of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, particularly two cousins in conflict. Fluidly written, with no sanctimony and plenty of dark humor” – Library Journal
“Fuller writes unhurriedly and with an economy of expression that is nonetheless evocative... what is explored paints a vivid picture.” - Bookpage
“Fuller’s kinship with Lakota traditions in this novel is palpable.” – Booklist
“A lyrical tale of life on the Rez. . . A tender, wry homage to Native American wisdom and lore.”- Kirkus Reviews