Where the Dead Sit Talking is a moving fictional account of a young Native American foster child. Sequoyah is a 15-year old boy moving into yet another new foster home when we first meet him. As we move through his experiences in and around his new home, Sequoyah shares his difficult early years and a definite hope for his present and future.
I thouroughly enjoyed this novel. I found the prose accessible, but emotionally charged. Even as I discounted this novel for having a protagonist too young for me to share common ground, I enjoyed the characters and the plot. And as with most of my favorite novels there was a glimmer (and sometimes more than that) of hope and humanity in this world.
“People live and die. People kill themselves or they get killed. The rest of us live on, burdened by what is inescapbable.” (p. 1) From the start of the novel, we know we are going to be confronted with death. Not only the death of a major character, but other deaths with varying degrees of impact. The novel is littered with notes about when, where, and how various characters die after their interactions with our protagonist.
I tend toward adult novels. I like adult lives and protagonists. I am not a person who hated high school, but I also am not someone who needs to relive them either. I chose to read this because it was on the Tournament of Books longlist and it was a National Book Award longlist title. So, when the narrator turned out to be a teenager, I figured it would be a quick read and I would be able to mark another one off the list. But, no, this book was not a quick, young adult novel. The narrator has a mesmerizing voice and a credible level of maturity given his background. He does has some naivete about him, but for the most part, it was comfortable passing some time with Sequoyah.
The other characters in this novel were given enough quirk and depth that I felt they were real people. A good example is Mr. Gillis. He is a teacher at Sequoyah’s school. Sequoyah runs into Mr. Gillis several times in the boys’ room. A somewhat sad and lonely individual, but a true human nonetheless.
The plotting on this novel was almost perfect. There may have been a moment or two too slow, but the point of the novel required a somewhat slow burn. The weaving of Sequoyah’s back story, Rosemary’s back story and the current events felt balanced.
I can highly recommend this book to others. I will be looking forward to visiting other titles by this author.