Powerful story of a young Laguna man’s return from WWII as a victim of shell-shock or PTSD. The first third or half of the book details Tayo’s earlier life on a Pueblo reservation in Central New Mexico, where he was abandoned and then orphaned by his mother, raised by his grandmother along with his aunt and her husband with their child, Rocky. Tayo’s father is an unknown white man and Tayo suffers for that. But he and Rocky join the US Army and hope for a safe return. These parts take place between 1922 or so and 1942 – roughly.
Unfortunately, Rocky dies in the war (this is in the first pages) and Tayo blames himself. He is very ill physically and mentally. The white doctors at the Veteran’s hospital can’t seem to fix him so grandma wants to try the old ways. This interwoven frame is set in 1946 or so – after Tayo’s release from the hospitals.
The story is told in a nonlinear fashion and there are no chapters. Silko uses simple language and it’s scattered with a few brilliant metaphors. I understand the story is based on an oral history Silko found. Although she is from the area described in the book, she wrote it while in Alaska.
It’s not an easy book to read – a huge theme and arcing metaphor is the importance of stories.